Osteoarthritis, Seronegative, Rheumatoid Arthritis: What’s the Difference?

Osteoarthritis, seronegative, rheumatoid arthritis—there are so many types of arthritis that it can often be difficult to tell the difference between them. In fact, there are over 100 different types of arthritis, each one having its own history, cause, and effect on the joints. That being said, all types of arthritis have one thing in common, which is that they all involve inflammation of the joints. Whether you’ve started feeling swelling and stiffness in your joints or if you’re simply interested in learning more about arthritis, the following information is sure to help you gain a better understanding about the difference between seronegative, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis or joint disorder found in the United States. This type of arthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease because it is caused by everyday wear and tear that deteriorates the joints over a person’s lifetime. There are many known causes of osteoarthritis, but there are still many cases in which the exact cause is never identified. When the latter occurs, the condition is often chalked up as natural side effect of the aging process.

Reduced cartilage is one of the main causes of osteoarthritis. If you’ll remember, cartilage is the rubbery material that rests between the bones of a joint. As the joint is used, the bones are able to push into the cushion of the cartilage so that they easily glide over one another. Over time the cartilage in our joints can naturally wear away which leaves less cushion between the bones of our joints, resulting in bone rubbing against bone. This can also occur if bone spurs, or excessive growth of bone, develops around the joints.

The job that you do, your favorite activities, your weight, and even your family history can influence your chances of developing osteoarthritis. Those who play sports, do a lot of manual labor, are overweight, or who do repetitive movements with their body (such as knitting, typing, or playing the guitar) are likely to see excessive wear and tear in their joints as a result of their lifestyle.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, and limited use of their joints. This condition may affect a limited area, such as one’s hands, or a broad area such as hips, knees, and ankles. Individuals with osteoarthritis may notice that the stiffness is worse in the morning and then lets up after about half an hour, when the joints have had a chance to loosen up. As activity levels and use of the joint increases throughout the day the joint(s) may again become tight and painful towards the end of the day. Over time osteoarthritis will worsen as the joints naturally succumb to the stress of usage.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis as the damage has already been done. One can, however, manage pain and reduce inflammation of the joint(s) by taking over the counter pain medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. If the condition is severe then it may be necessary to obtain a prescription-strength pain medication.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is another common type of joint disease. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur all over the body, but there is one key symptom that can be used to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis from other types, and that is symmetry. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to occur in joints on both sides of the body, such as both the left and right wrists, hands, or knees. This is a chronic arthritis meaning that it doesn’t usually work as a constant condition; a person can go without a flare-up for days or weeks and then suddenly experience the tell-tale symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Speaking of symptoms, this form of arthritis produces many of the characteristic signs of arthritis, which include swelling, redness, tenderness, stiffness, warmth, and limited use of the affected joints. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to kick in when the joints have not been used for long periods of time, such as after resting. The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, but research suggests that genetics could play a large role in how this condition is developed. Hormone changes are another suspected cause.

As with osteoarthritis, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are typically treated using anti-inflammatory painkillers. Topical pain relievers and steroid injections are other possible treatment options.

Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another type of arthritis is called seronegative. Rheumatoid arthritis is definitely in its own class of conditions related to joint deterioration; however there is a factor that can influence one’s ability to be diagnosed with this condition. This is the seronegative factor. Typical rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes be diagnosed through a blood test, which reveals the presence of the rheumatoid factor—an antibody that is most often accompanied by rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, however, rheumatoid arthritis is present without the rheumatoid factor showing up in the blood-work. This is known as seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. Other than the lack of the rheumatoid antibody, most other symptoms of this condition are the same as one would expect with rheumatoid arthritis.