How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?

Last Editorial Review: 8/29/2017

Ask the experts

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Doctor's response

Arthritis is inflammation in a joint. Diagnosis is based on a history of joint pain, stiffness and/or warmth, redness or swelling and physical examination. The examination can demonstrate swelling and often limited range of motion of the joint. X-ray examination can support the diagnosis and often disclose the type of arthritis and its severity.

Early diagnosis is important for early treatment. Many types of arthritis can progress without treatment. This can lead to permanent destruction of cartilage, bone, and ligaments, which can result in deformity and loss of function that is not reversible. Moreover, some forms of arthritis are associated with disease elsewhere in the body. To avoid injury to other body tissues, early diagnosis can be crucial.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


"Diagnosis and differential diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis"