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Difference between osteoporosis and osteoarthritis


Many people often mistake the different conditions of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, though they can be easily confused. Osteoarthritis by definition means Osteo=bone, Arthro=joint and Itis=inflammation and is the inflammatory illness of the joints, whereas in the case of osteoporosis the bones become porous, losing density which causes fractures. Below we explain the main differences between the two.


Osteoporosis is a condition which has an effect on the bones, making them become less dense and increases the chances of a fracture. In the United Kingdom, more than 3 million people have osteoporosis with around 300,000 people needing treatment each year due to fractures caused by osteoporosis.

Usually, no warning signs are raised until you've developed osteoporosis and it's often only diagnosed when a bone is fractured after minor falls. Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease as it can go undetected for a long time with it only being diagnosed when a fracture occurs.

Age is one of the leading factors of developing osteoporosis. As bone mass peaks at around the age of 35, we see a steady decline resulting in osteopenia (low bone mass) – the precursor to osteoporosis. Since bone density starts to decline rapidly usually between age 50-55 where one can lose as much as 15% of their previous bone density, and 1% increase after each year over 55, by age 70 one can lose as much as 30% of their bones, which is when fractures start to occur.

As with any illness, prevention is key. In the case of an osteopenia diagnoses, or simply acknowledging the aging factor, there are few steps one can take to prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis, such as taking vitamin D or calcium supplements or eat foods rich in both as well as participating in physical activities such as walking or yoga.

Another interesting point is the influence of hormones. Women who have estrogen deficiency, which happens during menopause, and men who have testosterone deficiency have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

Factors that have an effect on osteoporosis:

  • Age – Risk goes up with age after mid 30’s
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Having a small bone structure
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive intake of alcohol
  • Eating disorders
  • Hormonal deficiencies



Arthritis is a term for conditions affecting the joints and surrounding tissues.

The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In the UK alone, more than 10 million people live with arthritis with the majority having osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful, degenerative joint disease that often has an impact on the hips, knees, neck, lower back, or small joints of the hands. Specifically effecting the articular cartilage which cushions the joints and acts as a shock absorber, arthritis causes the cartilage to become thin and break down causing bone spurs and grinding of the joints, making movement painful.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on the other hand is an inflammatory disease involving various joints in the fingers, thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet, and ankles. People with RA also may have systemic symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, weight loss, eye inflammation, anaemia, bumps under the skin, or a lung inflammation.

The main causes of OA are overusing joints that are injured by performing a particular task for example like playing sport or carrying around excess body weight. This repeated act wears away the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in the joint. The result is that the bones rub together, which causes a grating sensation which inflicts pain.

As it is mostly the result of everyday wear and tear, it is most common among older adults. Luckily, as OA is a joint problem and not a systemic issue, even though it can cause pain in multiple sets of joints throughout the body it doesn’t affect every joint like RA would.

Factors that have an effect on osteoarthritis:

  • Age –elderly people are more likely to develop OA
  • Pre-existing conditions such as RA and gout
  • Joint injuries and overusing joints
  • Being overweight
  • Family history

Due to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis sounding similar, their names can cause great confusion. They may sound the same but there is a big difference in the symptoms, diagnosis and treatments of both conditions. People with OA generally do not often have osteoporosis but on the other hand, caused by some medicines used in the treatment RA, bone loss can occur resulting in those with RA to get osteoporosis.