Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: What’s the Difference?

Fifty million people in the US suffer from some form of arthritis. The two most common types are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Both cause joint pain, stiffness, and swelling; however, they are two very different diseases.

Here are the major differences between OA and RA:

OA is more common, affecting 27 million people in the US.

RA afflicts 1.3 million people in the US.


OA affects both men and women, though men tend to develop it at a younger age.

RA affects three times as many women as men.


OA is associated with age, and is caused by wear and tear of the joints.

RA is an autoimmune disease. The body’s immune system attacks joint tissue as though it were a foreign invader. RA can occur at any age, though it most commonly appears in middle age.


OA causes stiffness, joint pain, and decrease in the range of motion in the joints.

RA also causes stiffness, joint pain, and decreased range of motion. However, RA symptoms can also include warmth, swelling, and redness around the affected joints. In addition, RA produces generalized symptoms, such as fatigue and low-grade fever.


OA usually affects weight-bearing joints, such as the knee and hip. It also strikes the joints in the hands, the neck, and the back. It is possible for OA to occur in just one joint: for example, just one finger on one hand.

RA causes “symmetric” symptoms in sets of joints. Symptoms will occur in both hands or both knees, for example.


OA symptoms get worse as the day progresses. This is because OA is caused by wear and tear.

RA is usually at its worst in the morning or after a long period of inactivity.


OA does not usually change the appearance of the joints that are affected.

RA usually leads to deformity of the affected joints.


OA typically affects only the joints.

RA is associated with an increased risk of other diseases, such as heart disease and anemia.


OA is generally treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and painkillers.

RA requires aggressive treatment to stop the autoimmune response, as well as to minimize the symptoms.


Both OA and RA can be managed with physical and occupational therapy, and therapeutic life changes, including weight management. At Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, our care programs are designed specifically to meet the unique needs and interests of seniors and long-term care patients, including our patients with arthritis. We emphasize restorative care, maximizing each patient’s potential to regain and maintain function and mobility.

We foster an environment that is cheerful and enthusiastic, so residents truly relish and appreciate life.

Our outstanding Social Services team works hard to ensure that every resident thrives socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

We promote a culture of independence, crucial for emotional, social, and physical health. Residents are encouraged to choose their activity and meal preferences, and to perform tasks and activities as self-sufficiently as possible.

We carefully select, train and re-train our wonderful caregivers, who are especially sensitive to the needs of our long-term care patients. They treat residents with love, compassion, and dignity.

Read our reviews on caring.com, wellness.com, and senioradvisor.com to hear what our residents and their families have to say.

Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 609-588-5800 or by clicking here.

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