Osteoarthritis lab tests
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Osteoarthritis is probably the most type of arthritis seen by most rheumatologists. Laboratory tests can be used to supplement the history and physical examination and confirm or refute the diagnosis.
Laboratory tests used for the workup of arthritis are usually normal or negative in osteoarthritis. These include complete blood count, chemistry panel, thyroid function test, anti-nuclear antibody, erythrocyte sedimentation rate ("sed rate"), C-reactive protein (CRP), rheumatoid factor, anti-CCP, uric acid, and urinalysis.
Other tests include:
• Joint aspiration (or arthrocentesis). This involves draining fluid from the joint for examination. It can help rule out other medical conditions. After applying a local anesthetic, a needle is inserted into the joint using ultrasound guidance and fluid is withdrawn. The fluid will be examined for evidence of crystals or joint deterioration.
• X-rays. X-rays are used to show damage or other changes to cartilage and bone that indicate OA.
• MRI or magnetic resonance imaging. This is a more sophisticated method than X-rays of looking inside a joint. MRI reveals soft tissue abnormalities as well as cartilage and bone.
Because there is no sure-fire test that diagnoses osteoarthritis, a doctor will use the medical history, physical exam and lab test results to look for indicators of OA, including:
• Pain, stiffness and limited movement in affected joints.
• Bony enlargement of the affected joints
• X-rays that might show formation of bone spurs
• Narrowing of the joint space from cartilage loss shown on an X-ray.
Osteoarthritis can coexist with other forms of arthritis. That is important to know and understand.
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