Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis (With Table)

The word arthritis as a whole means the inflammation of the joints. It can be because of one of the many factors and causes. The most common and annoying complaints because of arthritis, are Pain and restriction of movements in the joints.

Osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid Arthritis

The main difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is that the former is mainly because of the wear and tear changes occurring in the joints, most probably because of aging, while the latter is related to the defect inside the immune system of the individual and can occur irrespective of age.

Though these two appear like similar things, they have vast differences between them.


Comparison Table Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of Comparison


Rheumatoid arthritis

Age at which occurs

Usually in elderly age

Can occur at any age

Causative factors

Wear and tear changes because of aging

Defect in the immunity of the individual against self-tissues

Development speed

Relatively slower

Almost develops rapidly in a very short time

Stiffness of joints

Mostly present during the end of the day

More in the morning

Involving joints

Joints on one side affected first then spread to the other side and other joints.

Most commonly affects the same type of joints on both sides at the same time and spreads from there.

Patient complaints

Most of the time only pain in the affected joints are only present

Pain in the joints along with general weakness and other symptoms will be present.

Nature of the joint affected

The pain only will be present with no swelling in most cases

the joint will be red and swollen along together with pain.


What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the so far the most common type of joint problem all over the world especially, in the elderly population. As the name indicates, the bones and cartilages involved in forming the joints become affected and inflamed.

The main thing occurring here is that the cartilage present in the joint which is making the movements smooth, breaks down and the raw surface of bone beneath it becomes exposed for the friction force during the movements.

Articular cartilage, because of aging, will have an increase in the water content and a decrease in the quality of the protein makeup in the joints. This will lead to wear and tear changes. In the medical fraternity, based on the causative factors, osteoarthritis is classified into Primary and Secondary osteoarthritis.

 The primary type is the one that maybe because of the aging process. The secondary type means the osteoarthritis arises because of pre-existing defects like gout, rheumatoid arthritis.

The patient will complain mainly of the pain while making movements, and stiffness during the morning.

The investigation that can be used to see the changes that took place in the joint because of this defect, is X-ray. But recent advancements like arthroscopy will also aid in the confirmation and staging of the defect in a person.

Because of the damage to the articular cartilage, there will irregular growth of bones, called spurs. Spurs in the medical fraternity are called osteophytes. The management of osteoarthritis involves a medical approach, lifestyle changes, and physiotherapy.

The medication most commonly prescribed is of those classes of NSAIDs, and other analgesics. Lifestyle changes include avoiding things like climbing stairs, squatting, sitting cross-legged…

Physiotherapy exercises like Quadriceps strengthening exercises are advised. Apart from these common approaches, in severe cases, surgical modes of a joint replacement is also an option.


What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is the one in which the joints will be damaged because of the metabolic and immunological causes. The main culprit in this disorder is our own body’s immune system targeting the joint lining and destroying the cartilage present there. There will be deposition of toxic metabolites in the joint cavities also.

Here the damage will lead to painful swelling of the joints and stiffness of the joints because of the pathology underlying it. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, not only the joints are involved but other important tissues like lungs, skin, eyes heart, kidneys, salivary glands, blood vessels are also involved and damaged.

The complaints of the patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will include, pain and swelling of joints, easy fatigability,  fever, loss of appetite, and restriction of movement, especially during morning times.

The investigation employed here is most of those involving blood as the sample. The markers that are used to confirm the diagnosis using the blood can be Rheumatoid factor(RF), anti-CCP (Anti Cyclic-citrullinated Peptide), CRP(C-reactive protein), ANA( antinuclear antibody) and many more. But these are the most commonly used ones.

The management of Rheumatoid Arthritis is mostly dependent on medications. The drugs used here are all classified into one important group called DMARD(Disease Modifying Anti- Rheumatoid Drugs).

For alleviating the pain in the disease, NSAIDs(Non- Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) like ibuprofen are employed. There are several advancements in the medications prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, but they are not affordable to everyone.

Managing a patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis is a multisystem approach focusing not only on the symptoms but also on the pathology underlying it.

Main Differences Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

  1. Osteoarthritis occurs at an elderly age. Rheumatoid arthritis pitches in at any age possible.
  2. Osteoarthritis is because of damage caused by wear and tear. Rheumatoid arthritis is because of damage incurred by the metabolic and immunological defects.
  3. Osteoarthritis patients will complain only of pain and restriction of movements. Rheumatoid arthritis patient will complain of pain, restriction of movement, fever, loss of appetite, swelling in joints, generalized weakness.
  4. The stiffness of joints is most common at the end of the day in osteoarthritis. Stiffness is more common in the morning in rheumatoid arthritis.
  5. The management of osteoarthritis includes medical, lifestyle changes, physiotherapy, and also surgical approach. Rheumatoid arthritis management revolves around only the medical approach most of the time.
  6. Osteoarthritis does not follow the symmetrical involvement of joints, whereas rheumatoid arthritis will.



Both of these above said defects are of immense importance when it comes to joint pathologies. These are the most common and yet painful ones to go through.

Despite having a lot of differences, both these have a similarity in a thing that we cannot stop the development process or completely cure these two in most cases, but can only slow down the progression and can only provide symptomatic relief.

Apart from the physical damage, there will be lots of emotional and mental damage to those patient and they need to be taken care of by the supporters.



  1. https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/default.htm
  2. https://www.medicinenet.com/osteoarthritis/article.htm
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648