Since there are over 100 different types of arthritis, sometimes a complete medical evaluation is needed to confirm or rule out the diagnosis of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis and can usually be diagnosed from your symptoms, physical examination, joint involvement and x-ray. Once the diagnosis is made, we can devise a treatment program for your care. Your evaluation includes your telling us about your pain. We will then conduct a physical examination of your affected joints, and x-rays will then be taken. X-rays show the change in joint structure. The articular cartilage or tread cannot be seen directly but its breakdown shows up on x-rays as a narrowing of the gap between the bones. When the read wears totally off the end of the bones, there is a bone-on-bone contact. This is usually a rather painful situation. With degenerative arthritis, there can be increased deposition of bone about the joint which will show up on x-rays as spurs. Likewise, bone can be reabsorbed and this will show up as degenerative cysts. These spurs and cysts are benign and related to the degenerative process and, in and of themselves, are not sources of pain.
Occasionally, blood tests area necessary to be sure that other types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout are not present. In addition, if you have an excess amount of fluid in the knee joint, some of your joint fluid may need o be drawn off and this can be sent for evaluation under the microscope as well as chemical analysis of the fluid which can help differentiate osteoarthritis from other types of arthritis.