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Testing for osteoarthritis

Testing for osteoarthritis begins in your physician’s office.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is also known as degenerative joint disease or the “wear and tear” of your joints. Osteoarthritis affects almost everybody in some manner as they grow older.

If you suspect osteoarthritis to be the cause of your joint pain, your orthopaedic surgeon can perform a few tests to determine if that is indeed the underlying cause. Common signs of osteoarthritis are stiff, achy joints.

The first step in testing for osteoarthritis is to take your personal medical history and conduct a thorough physical exam. In fact, this may be all that is needed to reach the conclusion that you have osteoarthritis.

However, your orthopaedic surgeon may require x-rays. X-rays use a small amount of radiation to produce an image of the bones and tissues surrounding a joint. X-rays can reveal an uneven loss of cartilage or bone spurs around the joint, both of which can be attributed to osteoarthritis.

X-rays can also help your orthopaedic surgeon to rule out injury or other diseases of the joint; look at the structures of a particular joint and have a baseline film for comparison while you are undergoing treatment for your arthritis.

Testing for osteoarthritis may include an MRI, to see inside your painful joint. Instead of radiation, MRIs use a large magnet, radio waves and a computer to produce clear images of the troubled joint. Your doctor can evaluate the extent of your deteriorating joint and check for loss of cartilage.

There are other causes of joint pain besides osteoarthritis and your orthopaedic surgeon may conduct other test to rule out those possibilities. Certain blood tests can show if your joint pain is being caused by rheumatoid arthritis or Lyme disease. Cysts can cause joint pain, and your orthopeadic surgeon may order an ultrasound of your joint area to determine if cysts are present.

Joint pain and swelling can also be caused by infection or gout. To test for these underlying conditions, your orthopaedic surgeon may draw fluid directly from your joint. This is known as aspiration.

After testing for osteoarthritis, your surgeon may determine that surgery is necessary to relieve your joint pain. Or, if you have osteoarthritis of the knee, you may find relief with an alternative treatment such as A2M plasma treatment.

For more information on this subject, call The Zehr Center for Orthopaedics at 239-596-0100 or visit www.zehrcenter.comThe information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments, or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read on this topic. 

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