Is It Osteoarthritis, or Rheumatoid Arthritis??>

Is It Osteoarthritis, or Rheumatoid Arthritis?

by Health After 50  

Joint pain and stiffness are the primary symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and many people confuse the two. But different processes are at work in each disease.

Osteoarthritis is a local degenerative condition resulting from the breakdown of cartilage and bone in a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is a generalized inflammatory disease that causes swelling around the joints and can damage other organs such as the heart and lungs. The chart below outlines the main differences between the two conditions.

If you think you may have either type of arthritis, contact your doctor. She or he will ask about your medical history, perform a physical examination, and carry out tests to identify the cause of your joint pain.

Osteoarthritis Rheumatoid Arthritis
Age of onset Usually begins after age 40
May begin at any age, but usually before age 50
Usually affects weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips, but also affects the finger joints; pain is ofen on one side of the body only
Usually affects small joints, such as the hand, foot, wrist, elbows, shoulder, or ankle, usually on both sides of the body
Appearance Usually cool, not red or swollen
Inflammation causes joints to be warm, red, and swollen
Morning joint stiffness
Lasts only a few minutes
Lasts for at least 30 minutes and can persist for hours
Symptoms besides joint pain and stiffness
Usually does not affect overall health
May be accompanied by fatigue, weight loss, and fever
Disease progression
Symptoms gradually worsen over a period of years
Symptoms worsen over a period of weeks or months
What eases pain or stiffness
Pain subsides with rest and worsens with activity
Stiffness decreases with activity

This article first appeared in the July 2019 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.

Also see Yoga for Arthritis.