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Are x-rays used to diagnose osteoarthritis?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Absolutely. Especially if you want to make your doc or healthcare system richer. When you tell your doc you’ve got a stiff, aching joint and you’ve been limping around like Mean Joe Greene, one of the first things he’ll suggest is an x-ray or MRI. X-rays and MRIs can confirm the damage to joints that a simple exam by an experienced physician can make. X rays and MRIs are tools that help the doc see what’s going on under the surface. But don’t get too many. Have your docs share yours since more x-rays increase your risk of cancer. However, x-rays aren’t foolproof and have trouble picking up early osteoarthritis, so your doc will also check for pain, or reduced movement in that joint to supplement the information he gleaned from the x-ray.
X-rays are one of the main imaging tools used to diagnose osteoarthritis. Your doctor will look for several different signs of osteoarthritis on your x-rays:

- narrowing of the joint space where the bones come together
- bone spurs (osteophytes) around the joint
- uneven, ragged surfaces on the bones of the joint
- cysts (fluid-filled cavities) in the bones of the joint
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
X-rays are often used to help diagnose osteoarthritis (OA). An x-ray image can show narrowing of the joint space caused by the breakdown of cartilage that may be due to OA. An x-ray can also show any bone spurs or bone damage in and around the joint. Even if your x-ray clearly shows you have narrowed joint space, you might still feel fine, with no pain or discomfort in the joint. If you want to stay feeling that way, take steps to deal with your OA now. Lose weight and exercise more to keep OA symptoms and pain at bay.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.