How Is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?
- X-rays: Approximately one-third of people with osteoarthritis on X-rays have symptoms such as pain or swelling. X-rays can show narrowing of the space between the joint (articular surface), osteophytes, cyst formation, and hardening of the underlying bone. Scoring systems have been used by doctors to assess the extent of the bony changes on X-rays. Separate scoring systems for the different joints have been studied and found to be predictive of disease status. An important finding from these studies was that the presence of osteoarthritis of the hands was a predictive sign of deterioration of the knee joint. In other words, people with finger joint osteoarthritis were more at risk to show a rapid progression of their knee osteoarthritis.
- MRI: This study is a complex, noninvasive imaging technique that is unlike X-rays. X-rays provide information mainly on bones. However, MRI is capable of visualizing all structures within the joint. MRI technology is sophisticated and requires an expert to interpret the study.
- CT scan: This study may be used to image a joint. CT scanning mainly provides information on the bony structures of the joint but in greater detail than plain X-rays.
- Joint fluid analysis: Fluid may be extracted from the knee with a needle and syringe when the diagnosis is uncertain or if an infection is suspected.
- Blood tests: No currently accepted blood test or marker for this disease exists. Blood tests may be drawn in cases in which infection is suspected.
What Are the Home Remedies for Osteoarthritis?
Lifestyle changes may delay or limit osteoarthritis symptoms. These are common home remedies:
- Weight loss: One study suggested that, for women, weight loss may reduce the risk for osteoarthritis in the knee.
- Exercise: Regular exercise may help to strengthen the muscles and potentially stimulate cartilage growth. Avoid high-impact sports. The following types of exercise are recommended: range of motion, strengthening, and aerobic.
- Diet: While there is no specific osteoarthritis diet, supplements of antioxidant vitamins C and E may provide some protection. Vitamin D and calcium are recommended for strong bones. The recommended daily dose of calcium is 1,000 mg-1,200 mg. The current guideline for vitamin D is 400 IU per day.
- Heat: Hot soaks and warm wax (paraffin) application may relieve pain.
- Orthoses: These assistive devices, such as neck braces and knee braces, are used to improve function of moveable parts of the body or to support, align, prevent, or correct deformities. Splints or braces help with joint alignment and weight redistribution. Other examples include walkers, crutches or canes, and orthopedic footwear.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medications
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the first drug recommended for osteoarthritis.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used for arthritis pain. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and ketoprofen (Orudis).
- Newer OTC preparations include chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate, which are natural substances found in the joint fluid. Chondroitin is thought to promote an increase in the making of the building blocks of cartilage (collagen and proteoglycans) as well as having an anti-inflammatory effect. Glucosamine may also stimulate production of the building blocks of cartilage as well as being an anti-inflammation agent. Glucosamine was found to increase blood sugar in animal studies, so people with diabetes should consult their doctor first.
- Arthritis self-help course: The Arthritis Foundation offers an educational program on the causes and treatment of arthritis. Exercise, nutrition, relaxation, and pain-management programs are covered as well as ways to communicate with your doctor. Completion of the program reduced pain by 20% and doctor visits by 40%.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/7/2016
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