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|Step 4: How osteoarthritis is diagnosed|
Older people often don't realize that they have osteoarthritis if they are free of pain and other symptoms. However, x-rays often reveal some osteoarthritis of the spine or fingers in elderly individuals.
Your doctor can diagnose osteoarthritis with:
If you have joint pain or other joint symptoms, you can talk to your primary care provider, who will be very familiar with diagnosing arthritis. You can also see a rheumatologist (a specialist in joint disorders) or an orthopedic surgeon. The doctor will ask you about any illnesses, injuries, or operations you have had in the past. You should tell the doctor about any allergies or other conditions you have right now.
The doctor will inspect your joints, checking for swelling, deformity, redness, heat, tenderness, and rashes. The doctor will want to identify which joints are affected, and how, in order to distinguish osteoarthritis from other forms of arthritis.
The muscles that surround painful, underused joints may be weak. The symptoms in your hands may be especially important in making the diagnosis. Osteoarthritis tends to involve the base of the thumb and the middle and end joints of the fingers.
|Osteoarthritis is associated with the aging process and can affect any joint. The cartilage of the affected joint is gradually worn down, eventually causing bone to rub against bone. Bony spurs develop on the unprotected bones causing pain and inflammation.|
X-rays and imaging studies
X-rays can confirm that you have arthritis, but will not necessarily indicate the type of arthritis. Your doctor will look for specific structural changes in the joints that suggest osteoarthritis, such as:
By contrast, imaging studies in people with rheumatoid arthritis more often shows:
If there is a question about the exact nature of joint swelling, the physician may perform a joint aspiration. During this procedure:
Blood tests may be ordered to identify infection, measure blood cell counts, and pinpoint telltale diagnostic findings such as rheumatoid factor (RF), which are more common in people with inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Blood and urine tests may be ordered to rule out conditions such as gout. The blood from people with gout contains a high level of uric acid, which is associated with the buildup of arthritis-causing crystals in the joint fluid.
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