Differences Between Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Arthritis and osteoarthritis appear with joint pain, but they have little in common beyond their superficial symptoms. With us you will discover that these conditions are much more dissimilar than it seems.
Differences Between Arthritis and Osteoarthritis
Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador

Written and verified by el biólogo Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador in 06 September, 2021.

Last update: 06 September, 2021

The musculoskeletal or locomotor system provides the human body with shape, stability, and movement. This intricate mechanism is made up of bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons and allows us to respond appropriately to any stimulus. Unfortunately, there are conditions such as arthritis and osteoarthritis that make movement difficult. Do you know their differences?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.710 million people suffer from some type of musculoskeletal disorder that makes their life difficult. These conditions are the main cause of work disability in the world and low back pain is the most frequent, with a high prevalence. Arthritic pain isn’t far behind, affecting up to 50% of the aging population.

In any case, to try and deal with a pathology, it’s necessary to know what’s causing it. For example, arthritis and osteoarthritis are different clinical terms that are often used interchangeably in ordinary conversations, but they don’t require the same treatments and their prognosis varies. Let’s see in the following lines how both pathologies differ.

General information on arthritic conditions

The differences between arthritis and osteoarthritis are quite a few
Arthritis and osteoarthritis, far from being similar conditions, are actually quite different.

The United States National Library of Medicine defines arthritis as ‘the inflammation or degeneration of one or more joints’. There are more than 100 medical conditions that can be categorized within this term, but some are more serious than others and their etiology is different. Among them is osteoarthritis.

Arthritic conditions are typical of the aging population, but children and young people can also suffer some variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) help us bring you the following epidemiological figures:

  • Osteoarthritis or arthrosis is the most common type of arthritis. Later on, we’ll see its global impact.
  • During the years 2013 and 2015, some 54.4 million Americans (22.7% of the population) were diagnosed annually with some type of arthritis. The most common conditions were osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia.
  • The percentage of those affected varies between 17 and 33.6%, depending on the area consulted.
  • In the population between 18 and 44 years old, only 7.1% of people are diagnosed with arthritis. Between 45 and 64 years this figure increases to 29.3% and reaches almost 50% after 65 years.
  • This set of conditions is more common in women. In girls, the prevalence is 26%, while in men it’s 19%.

We could continue to cite epidemiological figures for a long time, as arthritis is one of the most common musculoskeletal problems associated with aging in the world. In any case, it should be noted that the global situation of each pathology is one of the differences between arthritis and osteoarthritis that we’ll see below.

What are the differences between arthritis and osteoarthritis?

We’ve already let you see between the lines, but the conflict between the two terms arises from the beginning: deep down, osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis, but not all arthritis is osteoarthritis type.

For informational purposes, we’re going to have a brief closer look at the differences between osteoarthritis or osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as these are comparable clinical entities (both subtypes of arthritis).

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, but osteoarthritis isn’t

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, in which antibodies are produced against citrullinated proteins located in the joints. These antibodies or immunoglobulins are called ACPA and can be of type G, M or A.

As indicated by the Statpearls portal, in this condition the joint synovium is invaded by immune cells, such as monocytes, dendritic cells, lymphocytes and mast cells. Chronic inflammatory responses and the autoimmune reaction promote joint and adjacent bone degradation, resulting in clear atrophy.

Osteoarthritis or arthrosis (OA) develops in a quite different way. In this case, the cause is mainly found in the mechanical stress to which the joints are subjected, either due to obesity, predisposition or the performance of demanding jobs.

Watch out for more articles here on muysalud regarding these vital topics.

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