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