Advertisement

Can rheumatoid arthritis be mistaken for osteoarthritis?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can be mistaken for each other because both are characterized by swelling and inflammation. However, rheumatoid arthritis is different because in this condition, the body's immune system attacks the joints. This can happen suddenly and cause severe inflammation. On the other hand, osteoarthritis is caused by a breakdown of joint cartilage and tends to develop over time.
Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Because both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis cause joint pain and stiffness, the two conditions are sometimes mistaken for one another. However, rheumatoid arthritis also tends to affect the entire body, causing achy muscles, fatigue, weight loss and flu-like symptoms. Also, rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body such as both wrists or both knees.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. Osteoarthritis is a painful joint disease caused by age-related wear and tear, injury or, in rare cases, genetic illnesses.

No single test can diagnose osteoarthritis. Most doctors use several methods to diagnose the disease and rule out other problems. These methods include:

  • Taking a medical history
  • Giving a physical exam
  • X-raying painful areas
  • Giving blood tests or examine the fluid in the joints

Continue Learning about Rheumatoid Arthritis

Get to Know Rheumatoid Arthritis
Get to Know Rheumatoid ArthritisGet to Know Rheumatoid ArthritisGet to Know Rheumatoid ArthritisGet to Know Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. While RA can attack joints throughout the ...
Start Slideshow
Do Any Alternative Therapies Work for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Do Any Alternative Therapies Work for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Can an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help Ease RA?
Can an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help Ease RA?
What If I'm Scared of Stronger Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
What If I'm Scared of Stronger Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.