Rheumatoid vs. Osteoarthritis: What’s the Difference?


At FL Foot Health, one of our goals is helping educate patients on podiatric health conditions. Many people see arthritis as another “joy” of old age and just accept joint aches and stiffness as normal. Arthritis, however, actually refers to over 100 different disorders, many of which can strike patients under the age of 50. Two of the most commonly known types of arthritis are rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.


At first glance, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis may seem very much the same. Some of the key symptoms for both diseases include:

  • Pain and soreness in the joints

  • Stiffness

  • Difficulty bending at the joint and limited range of motion

  • Swelling

  • Heat and redness at the affected joints

Although in some ways rheumatoid and osteoarthritis may feel similar in your body, there are significant distinctions.


Osteoarthritis is known as the “wear and tear” type of arthritis. It is the result of natural wearing away of cartilage from years of use and does afflict patients mostly over the age of 50. Rheumatoid arthritis, however, is part of a systemic autoimmune disease where your body mistakenly attacks healthy joints. The above symptoms may come on more suddenly and severely than in cases of osteoarthritis. Symptoms tend to be symmetrical as well, meaning that they are the same in both feet or both hands. Other accompanying symptoms may include fatigue, fever and weight loss. Rheumatoid arthritis is a very serious medical condition that can affect many systems in the body including eyes, heart, lung and nervous system.

Seek Treatment Promptly

If you begin to experience joint discomfort in your feet or ankles, it’s essential that you not delay in making an appointment with your podiatrist to get it evaluated. (Don’t have a podiatrist? We can help you locate one with our online directory.) Even osteoarthritis can be treated, and the symptoms greatly decreased if caught in its early stages.

To learn more about arthritis and other conditions that affect your feet and ankles, contact us and consider subscribing to our free e-newsletter.