Arthritis vs Arthralgia – What is the Difference?

arthritis vs arthralgia

Pain in your joint persists, so you probably think about it already – you have arthritis. But is it really arthritis? How about arthralgia? Some specialist doctors use both terms interchangeably. The same rule applies to different medical organizations. Then, there are experts out there who claim there are no big differences between the two. All in all, here is everything you need to know when comparing arthritis vs arthralgia. There are definitely some distinctions between them, despite the numerous similarities.

Defining arthritis vs arthralgia

Generally speaking, the difference is in the symptoms. For instance, arthralgia brings in painful sensations in the joints. If left ignored for too long, chances are they will aggravate. With time, these pains become exquisite, asking for a more sophisticated treatment. However, there is one thing you should pay attention to – arthralgia does not bring in swelling, despite the severity of the pains.

On the other hand, arthritis brings in inflammation. Inflammation is a broad term that covers more symptoms – they normally go hand in hand. For instance, you will have both the classic painful sensations, but also swelling. The actual swelling part is the most obvious difference between the two affections.

Now, it is worth noting that you might experience arthralgia in different joints of your body. You could feel these sensations in your knees, hands or ankles, among others. On the other hand, arthritis leads to swollen joints too, but also to stiffness. You will also experience the same joint pains associated with arthralgia. With these thoughts in mind, arthralgia could also be defined as a symptom of arthritis.

Arthritis vs arthralgia – The relationship between them

Doctors who use these terms interchangeably because there is no point to go into small details. Treatments are similar and the painful sensations are the only aspects that can truly bother you. A bit of inflammation will not cause too much hassle, but the problem is pain will prevent you from doing all kinds of things.

The pain is the connection, while the inflammation and swelling represent the main differences. From this point of view, you could have arthritis, but also arthralgia later on. Both affections could come at the same time, with arthralgia being a direct consequence of having arthritis. While things could go in the opposite direction too, such scenarios are quite rare.

Signs associated with arthritis and arthralgia

Signs and symptoms of arthritis and arthralgia can easily overlap, hence the general confusion. There are a few signs and symptoms that are common in both affections. Stiffness is relatively common, yet pain is more popular and it can aggravate if left untreated. Redness is also a common symptom – despite most misconceptions, it can come without swelling. As a direct consequence of all these, you may experience a reduced motion of range in your joints.

These are normally the main symptoms associated with arthralgia. On the other hand, arthritis is more obvious because joints swell. It has various causes, but unlike arthralgia, it can be caused by underlying medical conditions too. For instance, arthritis could be a consequence of particular infections, gout, lupus or psoriasis.

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Arthritis comes with a few extra symptoms. Apart from inflammation, patients may also experience joint deformation, which occurs when the inflammation is ignored for too long. Then, arthritis can lead to full immobility if you experience cartilage and bone loss. Finally, the pain is more intense in arthritis because bones can end up scraping one against the other.

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Arthritis vs arthralgia – Risk factors and main causes

Painful sensations associated with arthritis may have a few different causes. A joint injury is one of them, as well as all the complications associated with it. Then, obesity is another risk factor. Carrying around more weight than your joints can take will put extra pressure on them. Therefore, arthritis is only a few steps away.

Osteoarthritis – while defined as a type of arthritis – could also lead to arthritis. You will end up losing cartilage and other tissues, leading to bones rubbing against each other. Finally, do not overlook rheumatoid arthritis either. The affection occurs when the immune system turns against some tissues – such as the membranes covering the joins – and causes swelling and inflammation.

When it comes to arthralgia, causes are way more diversified, but not always connected to arthritis. A strain might be responsible for it, but also a joint dislocation. Tendinitis is a common cause too, not to mention hypothyroidism. While rare, bone cancer is also a potential cause of arthralgia, so it should not be overlooked.


Arthritis vs arthralgia – Setting a diagnostic

The good news is that most joint pains do not need emergency care. Sure, it pays off seeking medical help if the problem persists, but do not let it aggravate by ignoring it. Chances are it will not go away by itself. Even if the painful sensations are mild, you should still get an appointment. Address the issue when visiting your doctor and take note of all the symptoms, as well as factors that might cause them.

A routine visit is usually more than enough for a diagnostic, but you should go through a more detailed evaluation if you suffer from diabetes or you have issues with the immune system.

Whether it comes to particular types of arthritis or arthralgia, there are a few tests you can take. Blood tests are usually the most popular ones and they normally check for the ESR and sedimentation rates, as well as the protein levels. The anti CCP antibody test is another common option, not to mention RF latex tests.

A more detailed test may imply a biopsy of the affected tissue, but prior to this, the doctor may try to remove the fluid in the affected joint for a deeper analysis.


Bottom line, comparing arthritis vs arthralgia is a bit difficult because the two conditions overlap each other. The good news is a doctor will be able to tell the difference and give you a proper diagnostic after a few tests. From that point on, stick to the treatment and look after yourself to keep the affection under control.​

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