If you begin to experience any osteoarthritis symptoms, don’t wait. It is important to see your doctor and get a proper diagnosis right away.16

If you are diagnosed with osteoarthritis, choosing the best treatment will depend on the status of your health, other medications you take, and whether your osteoarthritis case is mild, moderate, or severe. The earlier you and your doctor work together, the sooner you can begin an effective treatment plan.

Learn more about osteoarthritis causes, symptoms and treatment options.

Diagnosing osteoarthritis usually involves four steps:

  • Medical history. This is your doctor’s best tool in diagnosing osteoarthritis. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms, family history, and past medical conditions.
  • Physical examinationYour doctor will look for typical signs of osteoarthritis, such as joint swelling or tenderness, and a loss in the range of motion.
  • Joint fluid sample. After applying a local anesthetic, your doctor may take a small amount of fluid from your joint, called synovial fluid. A lab test of this fluid can help confirm the diagnosis of osteoarthritis and rule out other conditions.
  • X-rays or MRIs. These images can show damage inside the joint. Your doctor will be looking for the deterioration of cartilage tissue that is typical with osteoarthritis.