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Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Are They The Same?

Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) are diseases commonly classified under Rheumatological disorders.

OA is the commonest form of arthritis, most commonly occurring in the middle aged and older adults with marked variability in disease expression. It was previously thought to be part of the normal process of ageing thereby leading them to degenerative joint disease, however, it has been now realized that it is an interplay of multiple factors. Common factors include age, sex, trauma and repetitive, small insults over time. RA is a chronic systemic inflammatory disease, characterised by a symmetrical deforming, peripheral polyarthritis of unknown aetiology with. Chief complaints are usually joint tenderness and functional limitations. The onset of the disease, sequence of joint involved, and disease progression varies in both diseases. The differences of both the diseases are illustrated in the table below:



Rheumatoid Arthritis

Age of Onset

Begins later in life

May begin at any time in life

Peak onset 5th-6th decade

Speed of Onset

Slow, over the years

Rapid, over weeks to months

Pattern of Joints affected

Limited to one set of joints usually finger joints closest to the fingernails or the thumbs, large weight bearing joints (hips, knees) or the spine

Joint pain, but no swellings

Affects small joints and large joints on both sides (symmetrical distribution) such as both hands, or both wrists.

Joint pain and swellings and bony deformities can be seen.

Morning Stiffness

< 30minutes


Systemic Involvement



Generally, as a rule of thumb, diagnosis for either of the diseases are made after a thorough history taking and physical examination followed by appropriate laboratory findings and imaging modalities. If you experience any of the said symptoms above, please visit your nearest clinic for evaluation. As of any medical conditions, early intervention is the key for better prognosis.


Arthritis Foundation


osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative joint disease, joint tenderness, Joint Pain, swelling, joint stiffness, arhtritis

About The Author
Dr. Devalagan Muthalagan holds an MBBS from IMU. Currently, he is serving as a House Officer at Hospital Taiping.

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