Is Your Joint Pain Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Medically Reviewed

Joint pain and stiffness are the primary symptoms of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and many people confuse the two. But different processes are at work in each disease.

Osteoarthritis is a local degenerative condition resulting from the breakdown of cartilage and bone in a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is a generalized inflammatory disease that causes swelling around the joints and can damage other organs such as the heart and lungs. Following are the main differences between the two conditions.

If you think you may have either type of arthritis, contact your doctor. She or he will ask about your medical history, perform a physical examination and carry out tests to identify the cause of your joint pain.

(Originally published June 14, 2016; updated March 7, 2017)