Arthritis on X-Ray: Diagnosing Arthritis with X-Ray

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Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

X-ray and Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most common health issues in the United States. According to the statistics, around 50 million Americans are diagnosed with some forms of arthritis. And, this number is expected to increase* to more than 78 million in the year 2040. There are different types of arthritis.

The two most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. And, among these two types of arthritis, the statistics show that osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the United States, as around 31 million Americans are diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

There are many causes of arthritis, such as injury, inheritance, abnormal metabolism, and so on. And, the most common ways to diagnose arthritis is an X-Ray.

Arthritis on X-Ray is clearly seen on the image, and the doctors often use the result from X-Ray to confirm it. The X-Ray helps in obtaining the images of tissues, organs, and other body structures.

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is associated with injuries, wear-and-tear processes, and genetics. An arthritis joint will demonstrate the narrow bone spaces due to various reasons. The cartilage thins, the formation of cysts within bones, bones spurs seen on the edges, deformity of joints are some of the reasons, which leads to crooked joints.

Can You Tell If You Have Arthritis From an X-ray?

arthritis-from-an-x-ray

The image above is the X-Ray image of a patient that is diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the hand. Many things can be observed by looking at this image. In the case of osteoarthritis on the hand, the base of the thumb and joints near to the fingertips are the most commonly affected joints.

The image from the X-Ray clearly found these things:

  • Joint Sclerosis
  • Narrow joint space
  • Subchondral cysts
  • Bone spurs
  • Crooked Fingers

Is there a special preparation needed for an X-Ray?

There is no special preparation required for an arthritis X-Ray. The only people who should consider are the pregnant women. The pregnant women must inform the technician about their pregnancy because the exposure to radiation may cause harm to the fetus, so it must be minimized*.

At the time of X-Ray, a person should take off their jewelry before taking a test. There could be a requirement to remove* some clothes, depending on the body parts to be tested. The technician will provide some something to cover the body part.

What happens while conducting an X-Ray test?

All the X-Ray tests are the part of a radiology department. The beam will be sent by an X-Ray machine for ionizing radiation via an X-Ray tube. The energy produced by the machine will pass through the body part that is being X-rayed.

After the energy is passed through the body part, the part of the body is captured on a digital camera or a film for the creation of a picture. The bones along with various other dense areas will be showed up as lighter shades of grey to white. There are some areas, which do not absorb the radiation. These areas will appear as dark grey to black color.

The X-Ray will not take much time. The entire test will be completed within 15 minutes, and there will be no discomfort during the test.

Can you detect arthritis in an X ray?

detect arthritis in an x ray

The above image is the X-Ray image of knee arthritis, which is a very common form of osteoarthritis among the older groups of people. According to the study, around 10% male and 13% female over the age of 60 are diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis. We can see how the knee of the patients suffering from arthritis is different from the knee of a normal person.

What are some of the other methods to diagnose osteoarthritis?

Besides the appearance of arthritis on X-ray, there are some other tests as well that are performed by the doctors to know better about the patient’s condition. Before the X-Ray test, the doctor will ask some questions to study your symptoms. The doctors will ask these things to the patient.

  • The degree of pain
  • How long have you been suffering from this pain?
  • What kinds of activities are difficult to perform because of the pain or decreased* mobility?

After reviewing the symptoms, the doctor will perform some physical examinations to know about these things:

  • See if there is a swelling in the joint, as it could be a sign of excess fluid.
  • Check if the muscle is thinning or not
  • Check out joint mobility to see if it is normal or not
  • Joint tenderness
  • The grating sounds while moving the joints, which is called crepitus
  • Swelling in the bones
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint instability

Some other forms of tests that doctors may include are as follows:

  • Blood tests: The blood tests are usually not necessary to diagnose osteoarthritis; however, the doctor may ask the patient to test their blood for ruling out other possible diagnoses.
  • Joint fluid analysis: The doctor will use the needle for withdrawing the fluid if there is an excess swelling around the joints. The fluid will be used by the doctor to see if the patient has an infection, gout, or some osteoarthritis-related inflammation.

In addition to these tests, the doctor could ask for the medical history of the patient as well to see the risk factors of osteoarthritis, such as age, smoking, obesity, and family history.

What happens after finishing all the tests?

After finishing all the tests, then follow-up with orthopedist will be there. The orthopedist will go through the images obtained via X-ray along with the results of other tests. The orthopedist will get all the information, which is required by him/her to continue the process of treatment.

The orthopedist will also find out the severity of osteoarthritis and will provide you detailed information about your condition. There could be some other conditions that could be found out by the orthopedist, such as cartilage tear and muscle strain after checking out the images that are obtained via x-ray.

After all the lengthy process of diagnosis, the orthopedist will provide an appropriate treatment plan, according to the condition of the patient. There are various methods of treatment that orthopedist may suggest to you. They can suggest physical therapy, medications, or surgery.

In some other cases, the condition can be managed with a change in a lifestyle, weight management, ice therapy, and others.

Conclusion

The first step to treat* the arthritis is to diagnose it. And, X-Ray is the very reliable method used by doctors to diagnose arthritis because arthritis on X-Ray helps in obtaining the clear images of the affected area. Arthritis must not be taken very lightly because it can eventually ruin your life and career if it gets worse.

The study shows that arthritis is forcing people to retire early from their workplace. However, the good news is that many people have been able to overcome their condition. The treatment methods suggested by orthopedist have helped out many patients suffering from osteoarthritis from the past till now.

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Author

Expert Author : Beth Solomon (Consumer Health Digest)

Beth Solomon has been writing articles on health for more than two years with a concentration on pain management and men’s and women’s health and fitness. She has been a contributing editor to Consumer Health Digest since 2013.