Difference between Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Key Difference: Arthritis is an umbrella term for different disorders and conditions that affect the joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an inflammatory type of Arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease and is characterized by severe symptoms like pain, stiffness, loss of appetite and fatigue.

The literal meaning of Arthritis is ‘inflammation of a joint’. It covers more than hundred diseases and conditions related to the joints. A joint is basically where the ends of two or more bones meet. For example, a knee joint exists between the bones of lower leg and thighbone.

Cartilage tissue acts as a guard which cushions the bones by covering the ends of bones in a joint. It helps in frictionless movement of joint. In Arthritis, due to any of the several causes, the cartilage covered bone surfaces become irregular and do not fit together. The disease of Arthritis is characterized by the inflammation of the cartilage as well as lining of the joints.

There are many forms of Arthritis due to different causes. Some of the causes include – bacterial and viral infections, traumatic injuries, prescription and illegal drugs, etc.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a long lasting type of arthritis. There is no particular age at which one can say that it will develop or not. It is the most crippling form of the disease. It causes intense deformities of the joints and also causes fatigue of the whole body. The body starts attacking its own soft tissues and joints in this condition.


Typically, this form of Arthritis affects wrists, toes, knees and small finger joints. The symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include swelling, pain of joints, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and fever. There is stiffness in the joints as well as in the surrounding muscles. The actual cause of this disease is unknown, however many scientist associate the cause with some infection.

Comparison between Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis:



Rheumatoid Arthritis


Arthritis is an umbrella term which covers more than 100 different conditions or diseases that affects joints and other parts of the body

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a long lasting type of arthritis. The body stars attacking its own soft tissues and joints in this condition.



The underlying cause cannot be cured. Thus, the emphasis is on reducing the pain by –

  • Specific exercise programs
  • Change in lifestyle – includes things like eating a healthy diet, sleeping for 8 to 10 hours a night, eating foods with omega 3 fatty acids, etc.
  • Medicines like acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen may be recommended as over the counter medicines
  • Prescription medicines -Cortisoteroids, DMARD’s, Immunosuppressants like azathioprine or cyclophosphamide may also be prescribed.
  • Physical therapy or occupational therapy may be recommended to help relieve pain
  • A surgery may also be required in severe worst conditions.
  • Self care is also required in order to live well with the disease



Depends on the type of Arthritis –

  • Osteoarthritis – pain in a joint, stiff joint
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – painfully swollen, inflamed, and stiff joints
  • Infectious arthritis – fever, joint inflammation and swelling
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis – intermittent fever in children, poor appetite, some blotchy rashes can appear on arms and legs.

Some of the common symptoms are

  • Sore or stiff joints – particularly the hips, knees, and lower back -- after inactivity or overuse
  • Stiffness after resting that goes away after movement
  • Pain that is worse after activity or toward the end of the day.


The causes of arthritis depend on the form of arthritis. Causes include -

  • Injury (leading to osteoarthritis)
  • Metabolic abnormalities (such as gout and pseudogout)
  • Hereditary factors
  • The direct and indirect effect of infections (bacterial and viral)
  • Misdirected immune system with autoimmunity (such as in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus)

The cause is not fully understood


  • Physical examination by checking the joints for swelling, redness and warmth
  • Lab tests – testing of body fluids help in determining the type of arthritis
  • Arthroscopy – used for having a look at the damage in your joint
  • Imaging tests like X-rays, Computerized tomography, MRI, Ultrasound may also be conducted
  • After checking the symptoms of osteoarthritis the doctor may ask about medical history
  • A physical examination may be conducted
  • X-ray might be conducted in order to confirm the diagnosis

Image Courtesy: orthopedics.answers.com, eternessehyd.com

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