Arthritis on X-Ray: Diagnosing Arthritis with X-Ray (2023)

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.

Arthritis on X-Ray: Diagnosing Arthritis with X-Ray (1)

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.

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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.

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

Arthritis on X-Ray: Diagnosing Arthritis with X-Ray (2)

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.


(Video) Radiographic Approach to Arthritis

*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

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?

Arthritis on X-Ray: Diagnosing Arthritis with X-Ray (3)

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.

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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 with 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.


*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

(Video) X-Ray vs MRI in the Diagnosis of Hip Arthritis

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


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 until now.

If you cannot afford exorbitant joint pain relief methods, you can consider Osteo Bi-Flex which could be a solution to your joint pain problems.

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Can you diagnose arthritis through an X-ray? ›

X-rays are often a good tool for determining if arthritis exists and, specifically, what type. Common types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and osteoarthritis. Several less common types of arthritis also occur with regular frequency.

Can arthritis be missed on X-ray? ›

X-ray. In the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, a person may only have joint swelling, which is not detectable on an X-ray, so X-rays are not typically used for early diagnosis. X-rays are typically more helpful after RA has progressed.

Is arthritis always visible on xray? ›

Usually not. Joint wear-and-tear occurs in all of us. This type of arthritis is called osteoarthritis and is a natural consequence of aging. In fact, if you were to examine the X-ray results of 100 random people over the age of 40, 90% would show signs of osteoarthritis.

Can you see inflammatory arthritis on an X-ray? ›

X-rays can help your provider sort out whether the pain you are feeling is related to issues with your bones or joints, as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), or some other joint-related ailment.

What tests confirms arthritis? ›

Joint scans

Scans may be done to check for joint inflammation and damage. These can help tell the difference between types of arthritis and can be used to monitor how your condition is progressing over time. Scans that may be done to diagnose and monitor rheumatoid arthritis include: X-rays.

What is the best diagnostic test for arthritis? ›

What imaging techniques may be used to diagnose arthritis?
  • X-ray. X-rays may show joint changes and bone damage found in some types of arthritis. ...
  • Ultrasound. Ultrasound uses sound waves (not radiation) to see the quality of synovial tissue, tendons, ligaments, and bones.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). ...
  • Arthroscopy.

Can you have arthritis but test negative? ›

If these tests come back negative, but the patient is experiencing the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, this is considered 'seronegative rheumatoid arthritis'. (An estimated 20% of RA patients are seronegative.) Although, either test (RF or anti-CCP) can still come back as positive when RA is not present.

Can you have arthritis and test negative? ›

The quick answer is yes, seronegative rheumatoid arthritis does exist. A seronegative test for rheumatoid arthritis means that a person tests negative for rheumatoid factor (RF) and cyclic citrullinated peptides (CCP).

What is the most painful type of arthritis? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis can be one of the most painful types of arthritis; it affects joints as well as other surrounding tissues, including organs. This inflammatory, autoimmune disease attacks healthy cells by mistake, causing painful swelling in the joints, like hands, wrists and knees.

What is the number one medication for arthritis? ›

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

NSAIDs are the most effective oral medicines for OA. They include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) naproxen (Aleve) and diclofenac (Voltaren, others). All work by blocking enzymes that cause pain and swelling.

What is the best prescription drug for arthritis? ›

Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) act on the immune system to slow the progression and damage of rheumatoid arthritis. Methotrexate is the most commonly prescribed DMARD and the most effective. Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) is given for milder symptoms.

Does arthritis hurt all the time? ›

Pain from arthritis can be constant or it may come and go. It may occur when at rest or while moving. Pain may be in one part of the body or in many different parts.

What diseases can be mistaken for arthritis? ›

Conditions That Can Look Like RA
  • Lyme Disease.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis.
  • Sjögren's Syndrome.
  • Gout.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Lupus.
4 Sept 2022

How often is arthritis misdiagnosed? ›

Misdiagnosis is one of the most common medical errors, occurring in about 10 to 20 percent of cases, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis. It can lead to unnecessary or delayed treatments and physical and emotional suffering.

Does arthritis make you tired? ›

Many people with arthritis say fatigue is one of their biggest challenges. Fatigue can be linked to many types of arthritis and related conditions. It's commonly a symptom of autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis and lupus.

How is inflammatory arthritis diagnosed? ›

How is inflammatory arthritis diagnosed? Diagnosis is clinical, based on the presence of joint pain, early morning stiffness (>1 hour), and soft, often warm swelling around joints.

Can you have arthritis without swelling? ›

In the early stages, people with RA may not see redness or swelling in the joints, but they may experience tenderness and pain. These symptoms are clues to RA: Joint pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness that lasts for six weeks or longer.

Can a bone scan miss arthritis? ›

Bone density test scores do not indicate arthritis, which is an inflammatory condition of the joints. However, a doctor may order this screening for rheumatoid arthritis because people with arthritis also tend to have low bone mineral density.

What diseases can mimic arthritis? ›

Conditions That Can Look Like RA
  • Lyme Disease.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis.
  • Sjögren's Syndrome.
  • Gout.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Lupus.
4 Sept 2022

Can arthritis go undetected? ›

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis

It can be difficult for doctors to diagnose RA in its early stages because symptoms can be very subtle and go undetected on X-rays or in blood tests.

How often is arthritis misdiagnosed? ›

Misdiagnosis is one of the most common medical errors, occurring in about 10 to 20 percent of cases, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis. It can lead to unnecessary or delayed treatments and physical and emotional suffering.

What organ is related to arthritis? ›

In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system attacks healthy tissue in your joints. It can also cause medical problems with your heart, lungs, nerves, eyes and skin.

Which organ has arthritis disease? ›

Arthritis is a disease that affects your joints (areas where your bones meet and move). Arthritis usually involves inflammation or degeneration (breakdown) of your joints. These changes can cause pain when you use the joint.

What autoimmune diseases cause arthritis? ›

Several autoimmune diseases can cause joint pain and other symptoms that mimic rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These diseases most commonly include lupus, systemic scleroderma, and polymyalgia rheumatic.

How do I know if I'm suffering from arthritis? ›

  • Pain.
  • Stiffness.
  • Swelling.
  • Redness.
  • Decreased range of motion.
15 Sept 2021

How fast does arthritis spread? ›

Experts confirm that once OA starts, it may take years to reach a severe stage. However, in extreme cases, OA progresses rapidly to complete the destruction of the cartilage within a few months. Some of the factors that determine the rate of OA progression include: The severity of your symptoms at the time of diagnosis.

What type of arthritis starts suddenly? ›

Acute arthritis is a term that refers to rapid or sudden onset of joint inflammation and pain. Acute arthritis can be caused by several processes, including autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues, causing inflammation.


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