Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis both involve the joints and have a large overlap in symptoms. However, the two have very different causes. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear on the joints that accumulate over time. Cartilage can degrade over time, leading to pain and swelling. In cases with extreme wear on the cartilage, bone spurs may develop where the bones rub together.
Osteoarthritis is often considered a disease of the elderly. However, anyone who has a job or hobby that puts stress on the joints can develop osteoarthritis. For instance, those who have a job that requires repeatedly lifting may develop arthritis of the shoulders over time. Osteoarthritis can be symmetrical with pain on both sides or suffered more on one side of the body than the other.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that can strike an individual at any age. Like many autoimmune disorders, it is more common in women than in men. You are also more likely to develop RA if you have already been diagnosed with another autoimmune disorder. Unlike osteoarthritis, RA is caused by an immune response. A sufferer’s body will attack the joints, causing pain and inflammation. RA symptoms can show up anywhere in the body, even in a joint that is not heavily used. RA symptoms tend to be symmetrical, with symptoms on both sides of the body.