Talking RA

The New York Times Well Blog recently had a story on “voices of RA.” Perhaps the #1 arthritis question I get about RA is how to differentiate it from OA. I’m going to give you a very simplified answer. OA, or osteoarthritis, is “wear and tear” of the joints. Some people get it earlier in life than others, in some people it will progress faster than in others, but we all use our joints so we will all develop some wear and tear in them. RA, or rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmune disease with inflammation occurring in the lining of the joints. Many people are surprised to hear children can get RA. I have been a speaker for the Arthritis Foundation and recommend further reading on their site,


3 responses to “Talking RA

  1. I would love to meet a rheumatologist who has RA and see how they describe the difference between the two to the average layman. My aunts just said to me the other day – everyone has a touch or so of arthritis – like they think it’s all the same. I gave the same response you did, but doubt it made any difference.

    • Another issue with trying to differentiate OA from RA is that the “old fashioned” term for any sort of arthritis was “rheumatism.” I’ll hear lots of people telling me their grandparents had RA because they called it rheumatism. (Remember the scene in Sound of Music where Maria sits on the pinecone at dinner and jumps up, saying “Rheumatism”)! Also, a lot of people say their relatives have RA because their fingers “got crooked.” But OA causes crooked fingers in older folks much more often than RA does.

  2. thetruthaboutjra

    I love this. I have had some situations where I don’t know what to say because I get so frustrated inside and then I end up not explaining well at all.

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