Diagnosis of Osteoarthritis

Early diagnosis of osteoarthritis is important to treat the disease effectively. To diagnose osteoarthritis, the physician takes a medical history (e.g., personal and family history), performs a physical examination and takes standard x-rays.

Upon x-ray, cartilage appears as a black space between bones and in patients with osteoarthritis, this space is noticeably diminished. The presence of bone spurs (osteophytes), which indicate the disease, also can be detected upon x-ray.

If the diagnosis is in question, joint aspiration may be performed. In this test, fluid within the joint (synovial fluid) is withdrawn using a needle and syringe and examined under a microscope. Osteoarthritis often results in slightly elevated levels of white blood cells in the synovial fluid.

Publication Review By: John J. Swierzewski, D.P.M.

Published: 31 May 2006

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015