Osteoarthritis VS Rheumatoid Arthritis

Posted by Deborah Lee on

Image from: WebMD

Arthritis affects many elderly persons around the world - Singapore included. While both Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are forms of arthritis, both have different causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

In this article, we summarise the key differences between these two types of arthritis in hopes of allowing our readers to better recognise the distinction and to seek the appropriate treatment.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

What is it?

  • Degenerative joint disease that affects joints in various parts of the body
  • Wearing away of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in the joint, resulting in pain when the bones rub together
  • Usually developed due to past injuries or overused joints
  • If untreated, it can ultimately restrict movement
  • There are four stages of OA
  • Autoimmune inflammatory disease that affects joints in various parts of the body
  • The patient’s body produces enzymes that destroy the linings of the joints, resulting in pain, swelling, and stiffness
  • If untreated, it can reduce and ultimately restrict movement


  • Overuse of joints or continuous strenuous activities such as sports
  • Old age
  • No conclusive findings
  • A possible cause may be: hereditary


  • Worldwide: 9.6% of men and 18% of women aged ≥60 (WHO, 2017)
  • In Singapore, osteoarthritis affects 40% of adults
  • However, only 10% seek treatment (Singhealth, 2014)
  • Worldwide: 1% of people (WHO, 2017)
  • Singapore: 75% of those who are affected are females. (Singhealth, 2014)
  • RA usually affect people between 20 and 45 years old
  • Affects mostly those above 50 years old (Singhealth, 2014)

Risk Factors

  • Age
  • Female gender
  • Obesity
  • History of knee surgery or significant trauma
  • Having an occupation that requires heavy lifting, kneeling or squatting
  • Age
  • Female gender


  • Recurring pain in the affected joints or muscles
  • Mild stiffness in the joints
  • Cracking sound when a joint bends
  • Mild swelling around a joint
  • Cysts (OA of the hand)
  • Joint stiffness
  • Pain
  • Swellings

Preventive Measures

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Engaging in moderate exercise
  • Eating a healthy and nutritious diet
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • Immunity boosters


  • There is no cure, only ways to manage the symptoms:
  • Anti-inflammatory Medication
  • Oral Medication
  • Application Medication
  • Joint Replacement Surgery


  • There is no cure
  • There is no cure
  • People with rheumatoid arthritis usually has a shorter life expectancy


Compared to Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis is more common. For every 1 person with Rheumatoid Arthritis, there are 10 with Osteoarthritis.

If you realize that you or any family member are displaying any of the above symptoms (as stated in the table), it is best to seek treatment from a medical professional. Do note that the above table is for reference purposes only and not to be taken for professional advice.



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