Updated 25 November 2016

Diagnosing osteoarthritis

How would a medical expert diagnose you with osteoarthritis?


Your doctor will start off by having a look at your medical history and also try to determine which conditions run in your family. Diagnosis of osteoarthritis is, however, is usually based on symptoms, signs and X-ray evidence.

Blood studies are used mainly to rule out other causes of arthritis. X-rays may be used early on, but are characteristic in later disease. Therefore a clinical examination and X-rays are the most important aspect of the diagnosis – not the blood tests.

During the physical examination your doctor will examine your joints and check for pain, swelling and tenderness. He might also check your range of motion, the alignment of your neck and spine and how you move.

The final step involves lab tests, X-rays to check for bone damage and possibly an MRI scan.

Lab tests may be used at a later stage to confirm the diagnosis of osteoarthritis.

Read more:

Teen athletes at risk for osteoarthritis

Is osteoarthritis genetic?

Reviewed by Dr Ingrid Louw, MBChB, MMed (Int), rheumatologist/physician, (private practice), June 2011



Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Arthritis expert

Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules