Is it Rheumatoid Arthritis or Osteoarthritis?

The Difference Between RA and Other Forms of Arthritis

The Difference Between RA and Other Forms of ArthritisMany people think of arthritis as a disease that hits later in life, but that’s only one part of the story. In fact, arthritis is a broad category that contains over 100 conditions, and some of these have very little to do with the natural degeneration that comes with age.

Rheumatoid arthritis is one good example: it can strike well before old age, and although it does bear some resemblance to other types of arthritis, there are also some very important differences.

While all arthritis involves some degree of discomfort, rheumatoid arthritis has a very particular set of symptoms that demands a very precise management plan. Without targeted treatment, RA can quickly cause permanent damage to your joints, and even lead to serious complications in other areas of the body.

The first step to better arthritis care is an accurate diagnosis, so learn how and why RA stands apart from other arthritic conditions.

How Different Forms of Arthritis Affect Your Body

In general terms, arthritis involves the destruction or disintegration of joints, bones, cartilage and connective tissues. Pain, stiffness and inflammation are common complaints as the joints and muscles begin to lose function, and your range of motion and mobility will eventually suffer.

Different types of arthritis will affect your joints, cartilage and membranes in different ways. Although every type of arthritis brings its own set of challenges, many fall into one of the following broad categories:


  • Degenerative – The most common type of degenerative arthritis is osteoarthritis, and it’s often brought on by wear and tear or injury. It tends to develop later in life (after the joints have been taxed for many years), but since athletes and overweight people demand more of their joints than an average healthy person, they may notice signs of OA at a younger age.
  • Autoimmune – These forms of arthritis emerge when the body’s immune response goes into overdrive. Lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis all fall under this category. In an autoimmune form of arthritis, the body attacks healthy tissue – the joints, muscles, or organs, depending on the specific condition – which causes inflammation and interferes with normal function.
  • Inflammatory – Many forms of arthritis can be described as inflammatory as well as degenerative or immune-related, but some are more strictly tied to inflammation brought on by trauma or unhealthy lifestyle. Gout, Lyme disease, and reactive arthritis are examples of arthritic conditions that are triggered by a specific event or series of lifestyle choices that disrupt healthy function.

Next page: osteoarthritis symptoms vs. RA symptoms, and finding the right treatment. 

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