Arthritis and osteoarthritis: what is the difference between joint diseases?

Arthritis and osteoarthritis are diseases that not only sound very similar, but also affect the body in the same way: they affect bones, joints, ligaments and cartilage. In both cases, symptoms such as joint pain and difficulty moving also occur. However, there is a pretty big difference between them. We will try to make these concepts a little clearer. We explain how arthritis and osteoarthritis manifest themselves, what the difference between these diseases is and how they are treated.

Difference between arthritis and osteoarthritis

Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis is an age-related change in the cartilage tissue (destruction of the cartilage).

arthritisis a very broad term used to describe different types of conditions that cause joint inflammation. Each type of inflammation has its own name, for example, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis (arthritis, deforming arthrosis). Arthritis can occur at any age.

Osteoarthritis (osteoarthritis, arthrosis)- one of the most common types of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage tissue wears away. Our joints are mobile because of cartilage, its elasticity and suppleness. Its destruction leads to direct contact of the bones in the joints, which causes pain. Osteoarthritis is an age-related change that occurs with age.

Arthritis and osteoarthritis also have differences in:

  • symptoms.
  • risk factors.
  • classifications.
  • Diagnosis.
  • Treatment.
Osteoarthritis is an age-related disease that occurs in older people.


Symptoms of arthritis can also be present in osteoarthritis, but the nature of these symptoms is different. For example, joint pain is present in both cases, but pain from prolonged exertion and stress occurs only with arthrosis.


It's important to understand that sometimes the symptoms of one type of arthritis are completely different from another. But here are some symptoms common to all types of arthritis:

  • Pain. It usually hurts at night and may subside with increased exercise (such as daytime walking).
  • edema and swelling. If you didn't have any injuries and when comparing both knees or wrists, one of them is swollen, this may indicate arthritis.
  • Sensations of displacement of the joint. There may be a feeling that the joints are displaced and running into each other.
  • Fatigue. With any inflammatory disease, the immune system is activated and begins an active fight, leading to general weakness of the body and fatigue.
  • fever and loss of appetite. Inflammatory processes not only reduce energy levels, as already mentioned, but can also lead to fever and loss of appetite.
  • redness and rash. Usually occurs near inflamed joints.
  • Limited range of motion of the affected joints. It goes without saying that pain makes any movement difficult. Simple household chores or your favorite hobby are made more difficult by the stabbing pain in the joints affected by osteoarthritis.
With osteoarthritis, pain increases with movement


Here are the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis:

  • Pain. The pain always occurs in the joint affected by osteoarthritis and varies depending on the degree of cartilage damage. The more the cartilage is destroyed, the more pain the person will experience. Unlike osteoarthritis, where pain often occurs at night or at rest, osteoarthritis pain often occurs during the day: when walking, running, etc. Touching the skin over a sore joint can also cause pain.
  • Decreased mobility. Especially manifested after a long period of inactivity, for example, after a night's rest.
  • Crunch. During movement with osteoarthritis, you can hear certain sounds (not a soft click, but heavy and rough). This is the result of cartilage breaking down, which is supposed to ensure smooth, painless friction between the joints.
  • Deformation. With arthrosis (especially in the later stages), various deformations of the bones and joints can appear: nodules, growths. There is no swelling like in arthritis.
Even at a young age, a serious injury can trigger osteoarthritis.

risk factors

Some factors may be the same for both diseases while others differ from each other.

  • Age. One of the most common risk factors. As you age, your chances of developing osteoarthritis or other types of arthritis increase tenfold. At the same time, older people in particular suffer from osteoarthritis, and osteoarthritis can occur at any age.
  • The weight. The heavier the person, the more pressure is put on their joints. This increases the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis and arthritis.
  • Injury. The risk of developing osteoarthritis at a young age increases if you have previously suffered bone or joint injuries.
  • Genetics. If many family members suffered from osteoarthritis, it is very likely that you too will be confronted with this disease. However, your genetics do not increase your chances of getting arthritis.
  • Activity. If you constantly work in a job that puts a lot of strain on your bones, joints and cartilage, you are more likely to develop osteoarthritis.

Incidentally, a research group from Oxford University recently discovered a marker in the blood that makes it possible to detect the risk of osteoarthritis before symptoms appear, and at an early age (up to 16 years).

Being overweight increases the likelihood of developing arthritis or osteoarthritis



  • Arthrosis (osteoarthritis, osteoarthritis) - the most common type of arthritis, is caused by cartilage wear and painful friction between the joints.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – This type of arthritis usually affects all joints in the body except for the lower back. This is an autoimmune disease, the causes of which are not yet fully understood. A person can get sick at any age (even small children suffer from the disease).
  • Ankylosing spondylitis primarily affects the spine. It develops in the vertebrae and intervertebral discs. This is an autoimmune disease.
  • Cervical arthritis occurs for a variety of reasons, but the main one is age. About 85% of people over 80 suffer from this disease.
  • Gout is a rare arthritis that causes inflammation of various joints. This disease occurs due to an increase in the level of uric acid in the blood. Now gout is rare.
  • Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis characterized by inflammation of the skin and joints. With this disease, inflammation of the tendons and cartilage is observed, the eyes, lungs and even the aorta can also suffer.
  • Reactive arthritis occurs as the body's response to attack by bacteria and infection. The causative agents are intestinal and urogenital infections. The disease causes swelling of the fingers and toes, lower back pain.
  • Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects children under the age of 16. It leads to the destruction of bones and joints, development and growth problems.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis - occurs due to trauma (fractures, tears, sprains).
Arthritis is an inflammatory disease whose presence is detected by blood tests.


There are the following types of arthritis:

  • Cervical osteoarthritis affects the cervical spine, occurs with age, and can be caused by stress and chronic neck conditions. Symptoms include neck pain, muscle spasms.
  • Facet syndrome is most common in older people and causes back pain, especially when the person is in an upright position. Poor posture can cause facet syndrome.
  • Coxarthrosis - arthrosis of the hip joint. The hip joint is a hinge joint and one of the strongest in the body. With age, however, it wears out, and coxarthrosis is also common in athletes and overweight people.
  • Lumbar arthritis affects the lower back. It can be caused by scoliosis and abdominal obesity (accumulation of fatty tissue in the upper body).
Osteoarthritis often affects the knee joints


The diagnosis of both joint diseases includes:

  • Opinion poll. When the pain occurred, in which joint, type and duration of the pain, occupation, in which cases the pain worsens, past infectious diseases, injuries, etc.
  • visual inspection and palpation. Check for visible signs: swelling, redness, nodules.
  • analyses.
  • X-ray and MRI.

What is the difference between the diagnosis of arthritis and osteoarthritis? Because arthritis is an inflammatory disease, a blood test will detect inflammation. Analyzes for osteoarthritis are clean, usually X-ray or MRI is used for diagnosis.

Arthritis joint pain occurs at night



Depending on the severity of the disease, there are different treatment options. The main goal of treating arthritis is to eliminate the cause of the joint inflammation.

  • medication. Treating rheumatoid arthritis may require a combination of different medications. In addition to taking an analgesic for pain relief, your doctor may also prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, antibiotics, and hormonal medications.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments - Diet and exercise to relieve joint stress. Eat foods high in calcium (to stimulate bone strength) and high in protein (to build strong muscles).
  • Surgical intervention. The operations range from minor interventions to major operations (joint replacement).
Various drugs are used in the treatment of arthritis and osteoarthritis.


The main goal of osteoarthritis treatment is to restore the damaged cartilage. The treatment includes:

  • Medicines in tablets are chondroprotectors.
  • Injections - corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid to reduce inflammation and increase mobility.
  • message therapy. Essential oils are used particularly well: orange, ginger, lavender, rosemary, sandalwood and eucalyptus.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Surgery - Damaged joints can be replaced with artificial ones to reduce pain and improve mobility.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments - Diet and exercise to relieve joint stress. Eat foods high in calcium (to stimulate bone strength) and high in protein (to build strong muscles).


  • Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis is an age-related change in the cartilage tissue (destruction of the cartilage).
  • Osteoarthritis occurs in older people (50+) (can also occur at a young age, but also very rarely after a serious injury). Arthritis can occur at any age (including children).
  • With osteoarthritis, the joints hurt during physical exertion. Arthritis pain occurs at night.
  • With osteoarthritis, the pain increases with movement, with arthritis, it decreases.
  • Osteoarthritis most commonly affects knee and hip joints. Arthritis can hurt in any joint, multiple distant joints, or one at a time.
  • Arthritis as an inflammatory disease can be diagnosed by a blood test, osteoarthritis cannot.