by Courtney Gittins

Although Osteo and Rheumatoid Arthritis are similar in several aspects, they have different symptoms and require different forms of treatment.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by continuous wear and tear on the joints. Based on data1 from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) 2010 – 2012, an estimated:

  • 52.5 million (22.7%) of adults have self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
  • 22.7 million (9.8% of all adults) have arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation.

NHIS projects:

  • 78 million (26%) adults aged 18 years or older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2040.
  • An estimated 35 million adults (44% of those with arthritis) will report arthritis-attributable activity limitations by the year 2040

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the joints. RA is a systemic inflammatory disease that manifests itself in multiple joints in the body. This inflammation usually affects the lining of the joints (synovial membrane), but can also affect other organs. This inflamed joint lining leads to erosions of the cartilage and bone and sometimes causes joint deformity. A physician diagnoses RA using information from physical examination (signs and symptoms), blood tests, and X-rays. Ideally, the disease is diagnosed early – within 6 months of symptom onset so that treatment that slows or stops disease progression can begin. Early diagnosis is challenging because the symptoms of early RA can be non-specific (that is, they can be similar to those for many other diseases). RA affects approximately 1.3 million people in the US.

Rheumatoid Hand Arthritis:

  • May begin at any age and comes on relatively quickly
  • Frequently affects symmetrical joints on the body such as both hands, elbows, and wrists
  • Morning stiffness will commonly last longer than an hour
  • Chronic feeling of fatigue and illness are common
  • Treatment: Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and steroids. However, a hand doctor should be consulted for specific treatment.


  • Usually shows symptoms later in life and is much slower to evolve
  • Symptoms often begin on one side and gradually make their way over. They also are usually specific to one set of joints
  • Morning stiffnes will commonly last less than an hour and stiffness will return at the end of the day or after rigorous activity
  • Whole body symptoms are not present and the pain is specific to the area
  • Treatment: Pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs to help relieve the pain

Need further information regarding these types of arthritis?  Want the opinion of a specialist to determine your diagnosis?  Schedule an appointment with an OrthoNeuro Hand Orthopedic Specialist today!


1 http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis-related-stats.htm


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