Inflammatory Arthritis

What is the Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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Receiving a diagnosis of arthritis can be difficult, but can also be a relief for those experiencing symptoms that are impacting how they live on a day-to-day basis. Symptoms of osteoarthritis can feel quite similar to rheumatoid arthritis, however there are some key differences between the two conditions.  

What is the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition that occurs when joint cartilage breaks down or becomes worn out. This causes individuals to experience symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness, swelling, as well as additional symptoms listed later in this article. Symptoms usually begin around middle age, however it is completely possible that those who are younger can develop osteoarthritis, most likely from injuries! Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that directly impacts one’s joints as the body’s immune system attacks this tissue which then leads to a variety of painful and uncomfortable symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and inflammation, among a few others listed later in this article. One can be diagnosed/have rheumatoid arthritis at any age, however it is more likely to impact those around middle age.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

What are some symptoms of osteoarthritis?

  • Joint stiffness after periods of inactivity 
  • Pain or a feeling of achiness in the joints
  • Grinding, clicking or cracking sound when moving joints in the hands
  • Swelling around the joints
  • Joint weakness 

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

What are some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

  • Long periods of pain, swelling, stiffness and sensitivity in the joints (6+ weeks)
  • Your hands feeling stiff in the morning for over half an hour 
  • Anaemia
  • Fatigue 

*These symptom lists are not exhaustive and not everyone with these conditions will experience some/all of these symptoms. 

What do I do if I think I have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, we suggest reaching out to your GP. Symptoms of arthritis can be treated and managed, and the first step to receiving the right treatment is to reach out and speak up about it. Although it can be scary to investigate the issues you are experiencing, in the long run, it is always better to make sure you are doing everything that you can to maintain good health, and your GP and clinical team is there to help you achieve this!

If I have these symptoms, do I have one of these conditions?

Not necessarily! It is possible that you do not have arthritis and may have a condition with similar symptoms or are experiencing an acute issue. The only way to receive a diagnosis is to see your doctor. 

I have arthritis, how can Ampersand Health help me?

We aim to help those living with arthritis, through supportive tools and resources. We have provided a list below of ways we can help you manage your life with arthritis so that you can do so with confidence!

Have a question about how Ampersand Health and the My Arthritis app can help you? Reach out to us at

How Ampersand Health can help support you!

  1. The My Arthritis app. By downloading and using the My Arthritis app, you will have access to tools such as trackers, reminders and expert-led courses, made specifically for those living with inflammatory arthritis.
  2. Community Events. As a user of our app, you will get regular invitations to your email to register for our community events. We host a variety of events including ‘Ask a Clinician’ Q&A style events and community meetups (among others!). To see what events we have coming up, click here!
  3. Meet others like you. We have a great community on Instagram and Facebook of people living with inflammatory arthritis. We suggest following us on these pages and connecting with others through social media. You are never alone in your journey!
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