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The Basics of Osteoarthritis

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How Is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is based on a combination of the following factors:

  • Your description of symptoms
  • The location and pattern of pain
  • Physical exam
  • X-rays

Your doctor may use X-rays to help confirm the diagnosis and make sure you don't have another type of arthritis. X-rays show how much joint damage has occurred. An MRI may be necessary to get a better look at the joint and surrounding tissues if the X-ray results do not clearly point to arthritis or another condition.

Sometimes, blood tests will be performed to determine if you have a different type of arthritis.

If fluid has accumulated in the joints, your doctor may remove some of the fluid (called joint aspiration) for examination under a microscope to rule out other diseases.

How Is Osteoarthritis Treated?

Osteoarthritis usually is treated by a combination of treatments, including exercise, weight loss if needed, medications, physical therapy with muscle strengthening exercises, hot and cold compresses to the painful joint, removal of joint fluid, injection of medications into the joint, and use of supportive devices such as crutches or canes. Surgery may be helpful to relieve pain when other treatment options have not been effective.

The type of treatment will depend on several factors, including your age, activities and occupation, overall health, medical history, location of your osteoarthritis, and severity of the condition.

How Does Weight and Exercise Impact Osteoarthritis?

Staying at your recommended weight helps prevent osteoarthritis of the knees, hips, and spine, reduces the stress on these weight-bearing joints, and reduces pain in joints already affected. Once you have osteoarthritis, losing weight also can relieve the stress and pain in your knees.

Exercise is important to improve joint movement and to strengthen the muscles that surround the joints. Gentle exercises, such as swimming or walking on flat surfaces, are recommended, because they are less stressful on your joints. Avoid activities that increase joint pain, such as jogging or high impact aerobics. Exercises that strengthen the muscles reduce pain in patients with osteoarthritis, particularly with osteoarthritis of the knee.

WebMD Medical Reference

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