Diagnosing Osteoarthritis

An osteoarthritis diagnosis begins with taking the person's medical history and performing a physical exam, looking for signs of the disease. In addition, the healthcare provider will examine the joints, skin, reflexes, and muscle strength. Tests that may be involved in diagnosing the condition are x-rays and blood tests. Conditions that can share similar symptoms with osteoarthritis are also considered, such as psoriatic arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

An Overview of Diagnosing Osteoarthritis

There is no one specific test that can be used to make an osteoarthritis diagnosis (also known as degenerative joint disease, degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthrosis). Therefore, in order to make a diagnosis, the healthcare provider will begin by asking a number of questions. This is known as taking a person's medical history. Some of these questions may be related to:
  • Current symptoms
  • Other medical conditions
  • Current medications
  • A family history of any medical conditions, including arthritis.
In answering these questions, be sure to give a good description of pain, stiffness, and joint function -- as well as how these symptoms have changed over time. Providing these details will allow the healthcare provider to give you a better assessment. It is also important for your healthcare provider to know how the condition affects your work and daily life.
After asking a number of questions, the healthcare provider will perform a physical exam looking for osteoarthritis symptoms. This physical exam involves examining the joints, skin, reflexes, and muscle strength. The healthcare provider will also observe your ability to walk, bend, and carry out activities of daily living.
After the medical history and physical exam, the healthcare provider may recommend certain tests to help with diagnosing osteoarthritis.
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