Knee Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

You doctor will take your history, examine your knee, and probably order imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis of OA of the knee.

In diagnosing knee osteoarthritis, your doctor will want to rule out other conditions that could be causing your knee pain and other symptoms.

Your doctor will talk to you about when you first noticed the pain and other symptoms. He or she will ask what movements make the symptoms worse and if you've noticed that they're worse at particular times of the day.

Make sure you report any injuries you have had in your knees.  The doctor may also ask what you've been doing to deal with the pain.

Physical Exam: This is where your doctor examines how well your knee joint is working. How far can you move it (your range of motion)? How well can you walk? Are there certain movement that cause, increase, or decrease pain? As part of the physical exam, the doctor may also test your reflexes and muscle strength.  He or she may also check for swelling.

Imaging Tests: An x-ray can help your doctor confirm knee osteoarthritis because it shows the bones in your knee joint. Looking at that, he or she can see if you have developed bone spurs, which develop when bones start to rub on each other.

An x-ray can also show the doctor if your joint space has narrowed, a sign that you've lost cartilage.  It is very important that your doctor take the x-rays while you are standing up, as this is the best way to accurately determine the joint space loss.

You may also have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging test). This shows the soft tissues of the joint, and it is of particular use when looking for a torn meniscus.  It can also be used to determine how much of your cartilage is worn away, but often plain x-rays are good enough and an MRI is not necessary.

Blood Tests: To help confirm osteoarthritis, your doctor may order a blood test to rule out rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which can look like osteoarthritis. Since RA is caused by an immune system disorder, a blood test can help reveal this.  Otherwise, blood tests are not needed to diagnose knee osteoarthritis.

Updated on: 05/23/16