Although both Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may affect any of the joints including those in your hand, wrist, neck, back, knee, and hip, they are different forms of the broader condition, arthritis. OA is a degenerative disease that affects the cartilage between joints, whereas RA is an autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the body. Both types of arthritis have different symptoms, causes, and treatments. The physicians who participate in the Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center referral line treat patients with osteoarthritis.  Read on to learn more about the differences between OA and RA and their management.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that can be hereditary or a result of obesity, injury, or aging. The cartilage between the joints gets thinner over time, which makes bones rub against each other and exposing small nerves that cause pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks itself. The exact cause is still unclear, but in many cases, the body interprets the soft lining around the joints called synovium as a threat and attacks it. The attack results in buildup of fluids in joints, causing stiffness, swelling, inflammation and pain.


Osteoarthritis patients may notice enlarged joints with pain and stiffness. The stiffness worsens throughout the day, and usually has asymmetrical swelling in different joints. The symptoms of osteoarthritis mostly occur in larger joints such as the hip and affect the cartilage between joints.

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include swelling, stiffness, joint pain, stiffness, reduced range of motion, and tenderness. They symptoms are worse in the morning and last for around 30 minutes. Unlike in OA, the swelling is symmetrical in both hands and ankles. The disorder may also affect other parts of the body such as kidney, lungs, eyes, nerve tissue, blood vessels, skin, and salivary glands.

Must Read: 4 Common Types of Arthritis that Affect the Hand and Wrist


Early treatment of both the problems is essential to prevent complications. The first line of defense for osteoarthritis patients include muscle strengthening exercises and physical activity. The patient may also need physical and occupational therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and corticosteroids. In cases of severely damaged joints, a joint replacement surgery might be the last resort.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment may include medication and therapy to reduce inflammation, prevent joint and organ damage, and reduce the possibility of complications. The doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, JAK inhibitors, and biologics to slow down the progression of the problem. Similar to OA, joint replacement surgery is the last option if the problem causes a severe damage to the affected joint.

Final Words

As osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have no definite cures, the doctors primarily focus on pain reduction, improved functionality, and minimum damage to joints. If you or someone you know has been experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in the post, we, at Texas Health Spine & Orthopedic Center, are here to help. You can check your symptoms to identify the possible problems, or schedule an appointment with one of our participating physicians. Should you have any questions or wish to learn more about osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, feel free to reach us at 1-888-608-4762.

Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center.