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The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both conditions have similar symptoms but they are different diseases that develop from different causes.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. This chronic disorder causes deterioration of cartilage in the joints. Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative arthritis or wear and tear arthritis. Because cartilage in the joints wears down over time it causes stiffness, pain, inflammation and swelling of the affected joint. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects large, weight-bearing joints in the hips, knees, hands, and the lower back. This condition occurs due to aging process, obesity, muscle weakness, heredity, joint injury or repetitive use or stress of joints. Osteoarthritis occurs more frequently in women.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory form of arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease that occurs when body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissue. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints that eventually destroys the cartilage and bone within the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint inflammation that leads to swelling, pain, stiffness and redness in joints and it is followed by fever and fatigue. This condition, unlike osteoarthritis, affects smaller joints in hands and feet. Also, rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect the knuckles and the wrists which is not the case in osteoarthritis.

Difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are several facts related to osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis that can help to distinguish between these diseases. As mentioned above, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that affects more than 21 million people in the United States, while rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 2 million Americans. Osteoarthritis is a disease that involves joint cartilage and rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joint. The joint stiffness in osteoarthritis tends to be brief and the joint pain is worse later in the day after activity or repetitive use of joints. In rheumatoid arthritis the symptoms last longer and the morning stiffness may last over an hour. Being an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis usually involves not only joints but the internal body organs as well. Osteoarthritis is a disease of older people while rheumatoid arthritis may affect children as well. The joint discomfort can be symmetrical and affect same joint on both sides of the body and in osteoarthritis pain begins in one joint. Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis can be determined with the help of laboratory tests such as rheumatoid factor, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein. Osteoarthritis is diagnosed with help of X-ray that can show presence of bone spurs around a joint. Bony bumps on the joints of the fingers known as Heberden’s nodes and Bouchard’s nodes are feature of rheumatoid arthritis which is not the case in osteoarthritis.

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