What are the main differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis


What are the main differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis I am confused is osteoarthritis an inflammatory disease or not and are the flare ups the same as osteoarthritis or not thank you for any advice


  • DorothyParker

    Hi. I'm by no means an expert but I have both inflammatory and osteo arthritis and they act quite differently. I suppose the main difference is the cause. Osteoarthritis is caused by degeneration of the joint through use or injury, which can cause inflammation; rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammationwhich can then erode the joint. But it can affect any part of the body - the skin, eyes, lungs.

    So osteoarthritis isn't considered an inflammatory arthritis, which is a term usually used to cover the autoimmune type, but that doesn't mean you don't get inflammation along with it.

    Everyone is different but my osteoarthritis flares up and sometimes seems to settle down, but the arthritis is always there. I suppose it's mostly linked to activity and other aggravating factors. But it only really affects the joint, whereas a flare-up of my inflammatory arthritis can make me feel generally unwell, fatigued, low, stiff all over.

    You'll find better advice from experts but some of the other main differences are that RA tends to be symmetrical; worse with rest; and worse in the morning. Osteoarthritis tends to be asymmetrical and made worse with activity.

    Do you have both? Or are you trying to work it out?

  • frogmorton
    frogmorton Member Posts: 29,425

    The 'Inflammatory Arthritides' are different in some respects definitely @Blueskyday68 actually I feel ill with flares like fluey? have a slight temperature and absolutely wiped out like when you have flu. Not just tired literally cannot stay awake and the irony is rest causes joints then to seize up and lasts for me all day until the flare subsides. Joints are very warm to the touch in my case when flaring - I call them glow in the dark! Flares last for me from a week to many weeks 6 isn't unusual. I can't bring a flare on by overdoing it.

    Medications are aimed at calming the immune system down along with the same types as with OA pain killers anti inflammatories etc.

    Many of us with inflammatory will also have Osteoarthritis (me included) as well as it can lead to joint damage. Reading this is maybe a good place to start as what I have said is subjective to me of course.

    There is no hierarchy with Arthritis, in my opinion, whatever the cause of our arthritis to me pain is pain and the difficulties we all experience day to day are so similar. We can really help and support each other here.