OA is usually treated with over-the-counter painkillers, prescription anti-inflammatories, narcotic painkillers and steroid and hyaluronan injections in the joint.
RA can cause damage requiring different kinds of surgeries, including joint replacements (hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, fingers).
OA can cause damage requiring joint replacements.
RA can usually, but not always, appears symmetrically on the body (i.e., both wrists, both ankles, both knees).
OA tends to start in one joint on one side of the body and gradually involve other joints as a person ages.
RA can develop and become quite severe and disabling in a relatively short time.
OA happens more slowly over many years.
This has been a general overview of some of the primary differences between RA and OA. There are more - feel free to contribute yours in the comment box! We hope it will be useful in helping you educate the people in your lives to create a better understanding of what you're going through.
Lene is the author of the award-winning blog The Seated View.