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How Are Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis Different?

Mar 26, 2022

In Singapore, there is a report of a rising trend of young people developing arthritis. The survey conducted by the Ministry of Health found that 23.7% of Singaporeans aged 18 to 50 report to be suffering from chronic joint problems. This was a jump from the previous report of 7.4% among adults between the ages of 18 and 64 conducted just 6 years prior.

What is Arthritis?

When people think of arthritis, they often assume it refers to joint pain or joint disease. Contrary to popular belief, Arthritis is not a single disease, but rather according to the Arthritis Foundation, there are over 100 types of arthritis and conditions related to it.

What is the Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are the most common types of arthritis. They may share common symptoms and affect the same joints but their causes are different.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease that is caused by the breakdown of the cartilage that serves as the connective tissue between bones. On the other hand, Rheumatoid (RA)  is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain to the joints throughout the entire body.

Of the two, Osteoarthritis is the more common and although it too has symptoms such as inflammation and pain, it is localised or is limited to a few affected joints and only develops on one side of the body. Morning stiffness or stiffness after prolonged inactivity can last for just a few minutes up to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, Rheumatoid Arthritis affects both sides of the body and causes more inflammation, systematically affecting multiple joints. RA may also have symptoms of fever or the flu as well as fatigue, weight loss, and inflammation beyond joints such as eyes and lungs. Morning joint stiffness lasts longer than 30 minutes and symptoms may begin with minor joint aches, developing quickly within weeks.

Causes of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis is caused by damage to protective tissue surrounding the bones. The difference lies in the causes of this damage. In Osteoarthritis, protective cartilage breaks down over time due to strenuous movements that cause extreme stress to the joints such as sports. These causes wear and tear leading to the deterioration of the joint cartilage and the narrowing of the space between bones. As a result, bones rub against each other, causing pain, inflammation, development of bone spurs and limited movement.  

Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in the joints. This destroys the linings of the joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness.

Characteristics of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

The following table is a comparison of the different characteristics of OA vs RA:


Rheumatoid Arthritis



May begin at any point in life

Begins later in life

Speed of onset

Fast, can be weeks or months

Gradual, over years

Joint Symptoms

Pain, inflammation and stiffness

Pain and tenderness, sometimes sweeling

Pattern of affected joints

Affects both sides of the body and affects multiple joints at the same time

Localize to a few joints on one side of the body

Morning Stiffness

May last about an hour

May last for 30 minutes or less.

Presence of whole body symptoms (systemic)

Present through fatigue and flu-like symptoms.



Treatment for Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis in Singapore –

As chronic conditions, RA and OA do not disappear and at the present, there is no known cure or a way to reverse joint damage. However, certain treatments may alleviate some of the pain and discomfort individuals with these conditions experience.


Medications such as nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce inflammation, allowing patients free and painless movement. Steroids can also be injected into the affected joints, providing short term relief from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis pain and improving range of motion.  

For RA, alongside NSAIDs or steroid medication, physicians may also recommend disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) which can suppress the immune system and reduce damage to tissues in the joints.

Rehabilitation Therapy

Physical therapy and Occupational therapy are often recommended for arthritis patients. Physiotherapist Singapore helps patients regain full range of motion through exercises that improve their balance, endurance and muscle strength.

Occupational therapy aids those who experience pain while executing daily tasks. Occupational therapists may teach patients new ways of doing things to not aggravate the affected joint. They can also help choose assistive devices that can aid in their patient’s mobility as well as give instructions on how to use these devices.

Lifestyle & Dietary Changes

Eating healthy and staying active is a good way to keep your body in good condition.

Stay Active

Low-impact exercises are ideal for those who have arthritis as it is easy on the joints while it improves range of motion, strengthens muscles and increases mobility. Examples of such may be swimming or walking.

Get enough sleep

Getting quality sleep can help reduce swelling, pain and fatigue caused by arthritis.

Eat healthy

A healthy diet is crucial to a well-balanced lifestyle and a strong body. Healthcare providers may recommend diets high in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, seeds and nuts. Letter vitamins such as A, C and E found in dark chocolate, leafy greens, beans and berries may also be helpful as they are antioxidants and can help reduce inflammation in the body. Ultimately, eating a balanced diet is the best way to keep your body nourished, strong and healthy.

Osteoarthritis Hospitals in Singapore

The following is a list of hospitals that specialize in treating Osteoarthritis:

Raffles Orthopaedic Centre – Raffles Hospital

Address: Level 12, Raffles Specialist Centre 585 North Bridge Road

Singapore 188770

Contact Number: +65 6311 2310

Opening Hours:

 Mon – Fri: 8:30 am – 6:00 pm

Sat: 8:30 am- 1:00 pm

(Closed on Sundays)

The Bone and Joint Centre (BJC) Sports and Orthopaedic Clinic – Mount Elizabeth Hospital

Address: Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, 3 Mount Elizabeth, #14-15, Singapore 228510

Contact Number:   +65 6697 4975

Opening Hours:

 Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 5:30pm

Sat: 8:30am – 12:30pm

(Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays)

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery – Sengkang General Hospital

Address: Sengkang General Hospital, 110 Sengkang East Way,    Singapore 544886

Contact Number: +65 6930 5000

Opening Hours:

Open 24 hours, 7 days a week

Rheumatoid Arthritis Hospitals in Singapore

The following is a list of hospitals that specialize in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Autoimmunity & Rheumatology Centre – Singapore General Hospital

Address: Singapore General Hospital Outram Road Singapore 169608

Contact Number: 65 3214377

Opening Hours

Weekdays: 8 am – 5 pm

Saturdays : 8am – 12pm

Leong Keng Hong Arthritis & Medical Clinic – Gleneagles Hospital

Address: 6 Napier Road #04-18 Gleneagles Medical Centre Singapore 258499

Contact Number: (65) 6472 4337

Opening Hours:

Mon, Wed to Fri: 9am – 12.30pm; 2pm – 3pm

Tue: 9am – 11.30am

Sat:9am – 12pm

(Closed on Sunday & Public Holiday)         


Paediatric Allergy Immunology Rheumatology Centre – Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre

Address: 38 Irrawaddy Road Singapore 329563

Contact Number:  +65 6933 0000

Opening Hours

Open 24 hours, 7 days a week


Arthritis is a common condition in Singapore and as a chronic illness, it gets worse over time. As of the moment, there is no known cure for this degenerative condition so early detection is key in preventing it from worsening or causing disability. If you are experiencing symptoms of arthritis, Retire Genie can match you with a trained physician or rheumatologist Singapore who can create a personalized treatment plan that can keep your symptoms in check as well as give advice on how to lead a healthy and well-rounded lifestyle.

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