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osteoarthritis vs rheumatoid arthritis


How do rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis differ?

Although they have similar names and some common symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) have very different causes, paths of progression and treatments. That’s why it’s so important to see a rheumatologist for an accurate diagnosis. Below are the basic differences between RA and OA.

Type of Disease

RA: Autoimmune disease

OA: Known as the “wear and tear” type of arthritis and is associated with factors such as aging, injury or obesity


RA: Joint pain, swelling and stiffness; decreased range of motion; fever, fatigue and loss of energy can also occur

OA: Joint stiffness, pain and decreased range of motion

Location of Symptoms

RA: Often causes swelling in pairs of joints—especially smaller ones (both hands, both ankles, etc.)

OA: Usually affects weight-bearing joints (e.g., back, hip, knee) as well as the neck, small finger joints and big toe

Time of Day

RA: Generally worse in the morning or after long rest and lack of activity

OA: Tends to get worse with activity throughout the day

Age of Onset

RA: Usually occurs between 30 and 50 years of age, though can occur at any age

OA: Most commonly affects middle-aged and older people


RA: Approximately 1.3 million people have RA in the United States

OA: An estimated 27 million people have osteoarthritis in the United States

How does rheumatoid arthritis progress?

How is RA affecting me?

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How is RA treated?

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Which doctor sees people with RA?

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