Osteoarthritis Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

The difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is that osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease while rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the own organs including the joints (Autoimmune disease)

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Osteoarthritis Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the types of arthritis (joint inflammation), but both have different etiologies, pathogenesis, joint involvements, treatment, and complications. Osteoarthritis is a joint degeneration disease in which joint pain and swelling occur due to wear and tear changes in the bones which are mostly age related while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. The immune system of the body invades the own body parts including the joints.

Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are types of chronic diseases. In osteoarthritis, only joints are involved, but in rheumatoid arthritis, other organs may also be affected because it is an autoimmune disease in which immune system attacks the other body organs too, i.e., heart, liver, kidneys, eyes, GIT, etc. Both types are more common in females than males. Osteoarthritis affects the patient mostly in the advancing age when wearing and tear changes in the body start, but rheumatoid arthritis may occur at any age. Osteoarthritis usually affects the large joints. The knee joint is typically involved. Other large joints involved are shoulders, elbow, hip joint and the joints of the back, etc. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the small joints. Typical involvement is the small joints of hands. Other joints which can be affected are the joints of feet, ankle, knee, elbow, shoulder, and joints of the back, etc.

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The joint stiffness in the early morning in case of rheumatoid arthritis lasts for 10 to 20 minutes while in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, joint stiffness continues for almost one hour. Joint cavity becomes widened in case of osteoarthritis due to wear and tear changes of adjoining bones of the joints. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the joint cavity is not widened; rather it is swollen. On the X-ray of small joints of the hand, bones’ degeneration can be picked if the joints are affected due to rheumatoid arthritis. In the case of osteoarthritis, bone degeneration is usually in a single large joint. Other systemic symptoms are not present in case of osteoarthritis, while other systemic symptoms like fever, fatigue, loss of energy and in advanced cases, shortness of breath, renal function impairment and visual loss are present in case of rheumatoid arthritis.

In the case of osteoarthritis, only supportive treatment is given. No definite medical treatment. Artificial joint replacement can be done. For the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, immunosuppressant drugs are given. Methotrexate is the mainstay for the treatment nowadays. Anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics are also given to reduce swelling and pain. The complication of osteoarthritis is the complete dysfunction of the joint while the complications of rheumatoid arthritis are usually systemic like cardiac involvement, renal failure, liver involvement, and visual loss.

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Comparison Chart

Basis Osteoarthritis Rheumatoid arthritis
Definition It is a joint degeneration disease which occurs due to age-related wear and tears changes of the bones.It is a disease in which the joints are inflamed and become painful due to an autoimmune mechanism.
Joints involved Usually, a large single joint is involved. The knee joint is typically affected. Elbow, shoulder, hip joint or joints of the back may also be involved.Usually, the small joints are involved. The most commonly involved joints are hand and feet joints, ankle joint, elbow or shoulder joints and joints of the back, etc.
Morning stiffness The stiffness of the joint in the morning lasts for almost one hour.The stiffness of joints in the morning lasts for 10 to 20 minutes.
X-ray finding On X-Ray, there are no erosions of small joints. Usually, a single large joint is involved.On X-ray, there are erosions of small joints. It is typically diagnostic for rheumatoid arthritis.
Gender  It is more common in females.It is also more common in females.
Relation to age It occurs at an advanced age.It can occur at any age.
Joint space The space in the joint cavity is increased due to wear and tear changes in the surrounding bones.The whole of the joint is swollen and tender.
Nodule formation  Nodules on the skin are not found.In some patients, rheumatic nodules are formed on the skin mostly on arms.
Other organs involvement  Other organs of the body remain unaffected.It is a multisystem disease. Other organs like heart, liver, kidneys, eye may also be affected.
Treatment No definite medical treatment. Only supportive treatment is provided. Painkillers are given to reduce pain. Artificial joint replacement can be carried out.It is treated by immunosuppressant drugs. The mainstay of treatment is methotrexate nowadays. Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also given. Analgesics are given to reduce pain. Lifelong treatment is necessary.
Complications The complications are jointly related. In the advanced stage, the joint may be completely dysfunctional.The complications are both joint related and systemic. If proper treatment is not given, renal failure, heart failure, liver disease, and other systemic complications may occur.

What is Osteoarthritis?

It is an age-related wear and tears change disease of the joints which occurs due to the bones degeneration.  Usually, the large and weight-bearing joints of the body are involved. The classical presentation is of the knee joints. Other joints to be involved are shoulder joint, elbow, hip joint and intervertebral joints of the spinal column. The joint cavity becomes widened due to the surrounding bone erosions. Morning stiffness lasts for almost one hour and then settles. Joint is swollen and become painful. There is no definite medical treatment of this condition. Artificial joint replacement can be carried out.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

It is a condition in which the immune system of the body attacks the own body organs or tissues. The first affected part is the joints, and then other organs are also affected including heart, kidney, eyes, and liver, etc. Typically, small joints of hand and feet are involved. Morning stiffness of the joints lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and then settles. It is treated with immunosuppressant drugs. Methotrexate is the mainstay of treatment nowadays.

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Key differences

  1. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which involves joints first and then other body organs.
  2. Osteoarthritis occurs at an advanced age while rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age.
  3. In osteoarthritis, usually large and weight-bearing joints are affected while in rheumatoid arthritis, small joints are typically involved.
  4. Rheumatic nodules are formed on the skin in some patients in rheumatoid arthritis while no nodules are formed in osteoarthritis.
  5. In osteoarthritis, other organs of the body other than joints are not affected, but other organs may be affected in case of rheumatoid arthritis.
  6. The definite treatment of osteoarthritis is artificial joint replacement while the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is carried out by immunosuppressant

Conclusion

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are types of joint swelling. Often they are mixed with each other. It is important for medical students to know the differences between both types of joint inflammation. In the above article, we learned the clear differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

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