DIAGNOSING OSTEOARTHRITIS

A common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is caused by the loss of cartilage that protects the bones on both ends of the joints. 

 Cartilage is a flexible but firm tissue that also acts as a shock absorber and prevents friction between the bones. The pain caused by osteoarthritis is relieved with rest and worsens with activity. Osteoarthritis is a chronic problem and the symptoms tend to develop over a period of time.

The pain usually starts as a mild discomfort when getting up from a seated position and progresses into a constant pain over a period of time. Osteoarthritis can occur anywhere in the joints but is most common in the joints of the hands as well as weight-bearing joints such as knees, hips, feet, and spine.

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis:

Pain is just an indication of a problem and can be caused due to multiple reasons. Hence, in order to confirm that the pain is due to osteoarthritis, the doctor will go through the past history of the patient in detail as well as the family history. The doctor will then ask the patient multiple questions regarding the pain experienced. He will also perform a detailed physical examination and order various diagnostic tests in order to confirm the diagnosis.

 

History and current symptoms: The information required to help diagnose osteoarthritis includes:

  • Symptom description.
  • When and how the pain began.
  • Details of other medical issues, if any.
  • Location of the pain.
  • Effect of pain on daily activities.
  • Medications taken currently.

Detailed physical examination: During physical examination, the doctor will examine the affected joints, checking for tenderness, swelling or redness, any damage to the joint, and also for range of motion.

Diagnostic Tests: Diagnosis of osteoarthritis may be inferred after medical history and physical examination is performed. To confirm osteoarthritis, following tests may be ordered.
Imaging Studies:

 

  1. X-rays: These tests show narrowing of the joint space as well as cartilage loss, although may not be an ideal test to examine the cartilage itself. Also development of bone spur around a joint is revealed, if any.
  2. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field unlike an x-ray that uses radiation. MRI provides better images of the bones, joints, cartilage, as well as other structures. Hence, any abnormality can be detected early

Lab tests:

        1.Joint fluid aspiration: Fluid in the joint can also be aspirated to rule out inflammation and also to confirm if the pain is caused by gout or an infection.

      2.Blood tests: Although there are no blood tests to confirm osteoarthritis, some blood tests will help rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The above tests will enable the doctor to confirm if the pain is due to osteoarthritis. Once a diagnosis of osteoarthritis is confirmed, treatment will be focused on decreasing pain and improving joint movement. There are multiple treatments available including over-the-counter medications to alleviate the pain as well as physical therapy.

There are very effective treatments for Osteo Arthritis in Ayurveda which involve a combination of consuming herbal formulations and various therapies depending on the severity of the condition.

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