Diagnosing osteoarthritis of the Knee

If you think you have osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, your doctor will want to talk with you about your symptoms. At your exam you may be asked where the pain is, how long you've had it, and what types of things make it better or worse. Your doctor will probably perform a physical exam of your knee as well. There are several tests that can aid your doctor in making a final diagnosis1:

  • X-ray
    An X-ray can give your doctor a good view of the bones and cartilage in your joint—if the space between the bones is narrower than usual, it may indicate damage to the cartilage, a sign of OA1,2
  • MRI
    An MRI may be used if an X-ray is not providing a clear indication of the cause of your knee pain1

Other less common tests include:

  • Joint fluid analysis
    A needle is used to draw fluid from your joint; the fluid is then checked for signs of infection or other conditions1,3
  • Blood test
    A blood test can help rule out rheumatoid arthritis and other possible causes of joint pain1,4
  • Arthroscopy
    A tiny camera is inserted through small surgical cuts around your knee to look directly at the joint4

OA getting worse?

OA of the knee is a chronic condition that gradually worsens over time, and that progression can usually be seen on X-rays. The grades of OA just evaluate the progression of the disease and do not necessarily indicate how much pain you are feeling.1,5-7

  • Minimal—The surface of the cartilage in the knee begins to wear down. Small growths called bone spurs, or osteophytes, may be visible on X-rays, but there are only questionable signs of narrowing of the joint space6
  • Mild—Joint cartilage continues to wear away and joint fluid may lose its ability to lubricate and cushion the knee. Bone spurs are clearly visible on X-rays, along with a possible narrowing of the space between the bones6
  • Moderate—Moderate-sized bone spurs can be seen on X-rays along with definite narrowing of the joint space6

The good news

OA of the knee is manageable, especially if detected early, and there are many treatment options, including EUFLEXXA. So, if you experience pain, stiffness, or any of the symptoms listed here, see your doctor. Only a doctor can diagnose OA of the knee, but you and your doctor can work together to find a treatment that is right for you.

References: 1. US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. Handout on Health: Osteoarthritis. NIH Publication No. 06-4617. July 2002, revised May 2006. 2. Parmet S, Lynm C, Glass RM. Osteoarthritis of the knee. JAMA. 2003;289:1068. 3. Manek NJ, Lane NE. Osteoarthritis: current concepts in diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61:1795-1804. 4. WebMD website. Osteoarthritis of the knee (degenerative arthritis of the knee). http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/ostearthritis-of-the-knee-degenerative-arthritis-of-the-knee. Reviewed May 16, 2012. Accessed May 22, 2013. 5. Arthritis Today website. What is osteoarthritis? http://www.arthritistoday.org/about-arthritis/types-of-arthritis/osteoarthritis/what-you-need-to-know /osteoarthritis-is.php. Accessed May 22, 2013. 6. Schiphof D, Boers M, Bierma-Zeinstra SMA. Differences in descriptions of Kellgren and Lawrence grades of knee osteoarthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2008;67:1034-1036. 7. Phan CM, Link TM, Blumenkrantz G, et al. MR imaging findings in the follow-up of patients with different stages of knee osteoarthritis and the correlation with clinical symptoms. Eur Radiol. 2006;16:608-618.

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