Arthritis is a generic term that may refer to joint pain or joint disease. But arthritis is not a single disease. There are multiple types of arthritis including degenerative arthritis, inflammatory arthritis, infectious arthritis, and metabolic arthritis. And it gets even more specific than that. While osteoarthritis is a form of degenerative arthritis, inflammatory arthritis includes things such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout. But it is important to understand the differences between the various types of arthritis and also to get a definitive diagnosis in order to pursue the best treatment options. In this blog, we will discuss the differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis Definition and Risk Factors

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis affecting over 32.5 million adults in the United States. OA is sometimes thought of as wear-and-tear on the joints and though it can affect people of any age, it most commonly starts in the 50s. OA occurs when the smooth cartilage that cushions our joints breaks down, causing the affected joints to become painful, swollen, and hard to move. It is referred to as a degenerative disease because it typically starts gradually and worsens over time.

There are multiple risk factors that may contribute to OA. Some of these include age, weight, genetics, and gender. Women are at a higher risk of developing OA than men. Additionally, OA may be the result of an acute injury or overuse. For instance, playing sports that are hard on our joints or breaking a bone may lead to OA down the road.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

OA is different from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). As stated above, RA is not a degenerative form of arthritis but an inflammatory form. While RA causes similar symptoms to OA such as joint pain and stiffness, that is about where their similarities end. RA is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system is not functioning properly and begins to attack the body. In this case, it attacks the lining of the joints known as the synovium. The synovium produces a fluid to help joints move smoothly. In people with RA, the immune system releases inflammatory chemicals that attack the synovium, causing it to thicken, and resulting in painful, swollen, and stiff joints.

Unlike OA, researchers aren’t sure why some people develop RA but there may be a genetic component as having a family member with RA increases one’s odds of developing the disease. Like OA, women have a higher risk of developing RA. In fact, women are three times more likely to develop RA than men.

Why is this important?

Given that there are numerous types of arthritis that have various causes, it is incredibly important to receive a correct diagnosis so that you can pursue proper treatments. We of course research the use of adipose derived stem cells for the treatment of osteoarthritis. But there has been research about the use of stem cells for the treatment of RA and other autoimmune diseases and some of it looks promising. PSC strives to stay at the forefront of the field to advance and legitimize stem cell treatments for conditions that have limited treatment options. While we are not currently pursuing FDA approval for the treatment of immune-mediated diseases, this may be an option in the future.