How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?

Patient with elbow pain receiving a diagnosis from a doctor

Are you noticing pain, stiffness, or lack of mobility in your joints? Arthritis may be the cause of your symptoms. Learn more about arthritis and how to get an accurate arthritis diagnosis today.

Diagnosing Arthritis: What You Need to Know

Many of us know someone close to us who has arthritis. If you’re experiencing symptoms, you may even be looking into getting an arthritis diagnosis yourself. Getting an accurate arthritis diagnosis at the doctor’s office important. Even if you’re fairly certain you have arthritis, a diagnosis from a medical professional is important before you begin treatment.

After all, diagnosing arthritis isn’t always straightforward. Symptoms vary from person to person, and since there are many form of arthritis, it can be tricky to differentiate between the different types. Come to your doctor’s appointment prepared with any questions or concerns you may have. The more details you can provide about your general health, your health history, and your symptoms, the more accurate a diagnosis the doctor can provide.

What Are Common Signs of Arthritis?

There are over a hundred different types of arthritis.i At least 54 million adults in the United States suffer from arthritis. This article will focus on the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA). Signs of arthritis will vary depending on the type of arthritis you have. Signs of OA include the following:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Functional walking and standing limitations
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Grating (bone on bone) sensation
  • Joint swelling
  • Numbness
  • Instabilityii

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms of arthritis , consider reaching out to your doctor to schedule an appointment and determine a diagnosis.

How to Prepare for Your Doctor’s Appointment

Before your appointment with your doctor, take down a few notes on important information you would like to share. Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing, such as joint pain or stiffness. Be ready to communicate to your doctor when the symptoms began, how often they occur, and how severe the symptoms are. Keep in mind there are several factors that could put you at higher risk for developing osteoarthritis. These factors include the following:

  • Age: Being older (65+) increases your risk of developing the disease
  • Family history: You have a higher chance of developing OA if it rungs in your family
  • Gender: OA is more common in women than it is in men.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese can put stress on joints and worsen symptoms
  • Past joint injury: A medical history of joint damage or surgery can result in OAiii

Think back to whether or not you’ve had any illness or injuries that could explain the pain. Arthritis is a complicated disease with a number of potential causes and symptoms, so try to share any information with your doctor that you think is relevant.

How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?

Your doctor may ask you about your symptoms in order to determine an arthritis diagnosis. In some cases, lab tests or imaging may be conducted as well. Your doctor may start with a series of questions, such as:

  • Where is the pain?
  • How often does the pain occur?
  • Are there any activities that exacerbate the pain?
  • What makes the pain worse?
  • What makes the pain improve?

Additionally, your doctor will conduct a physical exam, checking for things like redness, swelling and range of motion.ix Lab tests and imaging are not necessarily needed for an osteoarthritis diagnosis.iv Keep in mind that other types of arthritis are diagnosed differently. For instance, your doctor might check certain levels in your blood if they are suspicious that you might be suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis or gout.v Nerve tests may be conducted in some cases if the doctor suspects any disruption of electrical activities in the nerves.vi

Life After an Arthritis Diagnosis

Getting an official osteoarthritis diagnosis can feel scary. Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to help manage the pain and alleviate the symptoms so that you can live life. From excercise to diet, focus on living a healthy lifestyle to help with arthritis symptoms. Ask your doctor if there is any specific course of treatment they recommend, such as physical therapy or switching up footwear. If you would like to try a pain reliever medicine, consider Voltaren Arthritis Pain NSAID. Voltaren Arthritis Pain is the first full prescription topical NSAID treatment for arthritis joint pain. Ask your doctor if Voltaren might be a good choice for you.


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