How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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"

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 8/29/2017