Diagnosis

During the physical exam, your doctor will check your joints for swelling, redness and warmth. He or she will also want to see how well you can move your joints. Depending on the type of arthritis suspected, your doctor may suggest some of the following tests.

Laboratory tests

The analysis of different types of body fluids can help pinpoint the type of arthritis you may have. Fluids commonly analyzed include blood, urine and joint fluid. To obtain a sample of your joint fluid, your doctor will cleanse and numb the area before inserting a needle in your joint space to withdraw some fluid (aspiration).

Imaging

These types of tests can detect problems within your joint that may be causing your symptoms. Examples include:

  • X-rays. Using low levels of radiation to visualize bone, X-rays can show cartilage loss, bone damage and bone spurs. X-rays may not reveal early arthritic damage, but they are often used to track progression of the disease.
  • Computerized tomography (CT). CT scanners take X-rays from many different angles and combine the information to create cross-sectional views of internal structures. CTs can visualize both bone and the surrounding soft tissues.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Combining radio waves with a strong magnetic field, MRI can produce more-detailed cross-sectional images of soft tissues such as cartilage, tendons and ligaments.
  • Ultrasound. This technology uses high-frequency sound waves to image soft tissues, cartilage and fluid-containing structures such as bursae. Ultrasound also is used to guide needle placement for joint aspirations and injections.
Jan. 07, 2016
References
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  2. Living with arthritis: Health information basics for you and your family. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Arthritis/default.asp. Accessed Dec. 2, 2015.
  3. Ferri FF. Osteoarthritis. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2016. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 3, 2015.
  4. Ferri FF. Rheumatoid arthritis. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2016. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 3, 2015.
  5. Kalunian KC. Initial pharmacologic therapy of osteoarthritis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 3, 2015.
  6. Weisman MH, et al. Total joint replacement for severe rheumatoid arthritis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 3, 2015.
  7. Osteoarthritis and complementary health approaches. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/arthritis/osteoarthritis. Accessed Dec. 3, 2015.
  8. Rheumatoid arthritis and complementary health approaches. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/RA/getthefacts.htm. Accessed Dec. 3, 2015.