Rheumatoid Arthritis And Osteoarthritis: Similarities And Differences

Arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis share both similarities and differences. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, then your care may be managed by a rheumatologist. Conversely, if you have osteoarthritis, your primary care physician or orthopedic doctor may be the appropriate healthcare provider to manage your condition. Here are some similarities and differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. 


Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis cause joint pain and inflammation. They can also cause morning stiffness, limited range of motion, and decreased flexibility. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium are commonly prescribed for both of these arthritic conditions, as are physical therapy and certain nutritional supplements to help promote joint health.

Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are degenerative joint diseases, and while both conditions can be well-managed with the proper treatment to discourage further joint damage, existing joint damage usually cannot be reversed in either type of arthritis. Moreover, an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of fresh fish and plenty of fruits and vegetables may help improve the symptoms of both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis by decreasing joint inflammation, reducing pain, and relieving morning stiffness. 


One of the main differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is the former is an autoimmune disease and the latter, a disease of "wear and tear." Osteoarthritis often develops in older people, while advancing age is not a major risk factor in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, osteoarthritis typically produces only local symptoms such as painful joints and joint inflammation, while rheumatoid arthritis can cause systemic symptoms. These symptoms may include fatigue, muscle pain, and even fevers.

Osteoarthritis generally does not raise the risk for other health disorders, however, while rheumatoid arthritis may heighten your risk for eye problems as well as heart, lung, and blood vessel disorders. In addition, having rheumatoid arthritis may also raise your risk for another autoimmune disease known as Sjögren's syndrome, which causes dry eyes and dry mouth. In addition to managing your joint pain and inflammation, your rheumatologist will monitor your general state of health to help ensure that any rheumatoid-related complications will be detected early on when they are most treatable. 

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, see your rheumatologist on a regular basis. Well-managed rheumatoid arthritis is less likely to lead to joint destruction and other complications related to this autoimmune disorder. If you have osteoarthritis, see your primary care doctor or orthopedic physician regularly so that your joint health can be monitored for any changes.

For more information, contact a rheumatologist near you.