Arthritis: Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

In general, arthritis can be a real pain in the . . . joints! Although both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are a result of the same overarching disease and are both painful, the two different types of arthritis are just that—different.

There are currently more than 30 million adults in the US suffering from osteoarthritis, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Osteoarthritis, which only affects joints, can be brought on by injury, getting older, being overweight or genetics. It’s a degenerative disease that causes the cartilage to thin and weaken. Over time the lack of cartilage results in the bones rubbing against each other creating a great deal of pain.


Rheumatoid arthritis currently affects 1.3 million U.S. adults, with women three times more at risk than men. It’s an autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the body. An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks the healthy cells in your body. Rheumatoid arthritis is when the immune system attacks the synovial membrane, which lines the joints, causing excess fluids on the joints. Also causing a great deal of pain.

Both forms of arthritis cause the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Reduced range of motion

However, the two diseases do differ as to when the symptoms are worst. Osteoarthritis symptoms typically worsen as the day goes on. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are usually worse in the morning or after sitting and/or standing still for long periods of time.

Treatment for both ailments typically starts with exercises to decrease inflammation, medication and cortizone/steroid injections may also be administered. If the joints have deterioated too much, joint replacement surgery may be required to help reduce the patient’s pain and regain movement.

If you’re experiencing joint pain, please call us at 618-288-9460 to get assessed by one of our board-certified orthopedic surgeons.

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