Diagnosing Osteoarthritis

Various medical societies have come forward with recommended guidelines for diagnosis of osteoarthritis. The guidelines are specific for each joint and generally use a combination of clinical symptoms, laboratory data and radiographic imaging  results.

Osteoarthritis may be diagnosed by viewing the structure of the joint using imaging, evaluating joint symptoms or a combination of both [1].

Diagnosis can be made using X-ray of the affected joint.  X-ray findings in osteoarthritis include:

  • Loss of joint cartilage
  • Narrowing of the joint space
  • Bone spur formation 

A detailed medical history and physical exam can also assist in diagnosing osteoarthritis. Careful examination of symptoms, such as pain progression over time, pain aggravating factors and pain alleviating factors can aid in proper diagnosis. Additionally, arthrocentesis (removal of joint fluid) may be used to rule out other possible causes of joint pain.


1. Nevitt M, (2006) Risk factors for knee, hip and hand osteoarthritis. In: Arden N, Cooper C (eds) Osteoarthritis Handbook, Taylor & Francis, London, pp 23-48