Osteoarthritis is often visible in x-rays. Cartilage loss is suggested by certain characteristics of the images:
- The normal space between the bones in a joint is narrowed.
- There is an abnormal increase in bone density.
- Bony projections, cysts, or erosions are visible.
If the doctor suspects other conditions, or if the diagnosis is uncertain, additional tests are necessary.
It is important to note that a negative x-ray does not rule out osteoarthritis. Likewise, some people may have minimal symptoms even though an x-ray clearly shows they have arthritis.
An MRI exam of an arthritic joint is generally not needed, unless the doctor suspects other causes of pain.
The affected joint in patients with osteoarthritis will generally be tender to pressure right along the joint line. Joint movement may cause a crackling sound. The bones around the joints may feel larger than normal. The joint's range of motion is often reduced, and normal movement is often painful.
Review Date: 06/16/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.