How do I know if I have osteoarthritis?

Unlike other types of arthritis, the pain from osteoarthritis usually develops gradually over many months or years. Often it increases with activities that put stress on the joint, such as running or prolonged walking. Pain and joint swelling tend to increase slowly over time. Sometimes, especially in more advanced disease, a sensation of crunching or grinding may be noticed in affected joints. Prolonged morning stiffness is not a prominent symptom in OA as compared to inflammatory arthritides, such as rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis does not usually cause fevers, weight loss, or very hot and red joints. These features suggest some other condition or type of arthritis.

Your healthcare provider (MD, DO, NP, PA) can typically diagnose osteoarthritis by obtaining a complete history of your symptoms and examining your joints. X-rays may be helpful to make sure there is no other reason for the pain. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is generally not needed except in unusual circumstances or in cases when the cartilage or surrounding ligament tear is suspected. There are no blood tests that diagnose osteoarthritis. If a joint is particularly swollen, a doctor may need to drain fluid from that joint. Tests can be performed on the fluid to look for clues for other types of arthritis, such as gout.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/26/2019.


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