How do you know you have osteoarthritis?

A clinical diagnosis for osteoarthritis is done based on symptoms. At later stages, osteoarthritis can be seen on an x-ray. See the links below to know more about osteoarthritis diagnosis.

Osteoarthritis often affects one joint and symptoms often progress slowly. Symptoms can start for no apparent reason. For some people, symptoms stop fully. For others, symptoms quickly turn into more serious problems and spread to other joints. Symptoms can come and go. Early symptoms are more commonly felt in the morning for long periods of time. These include:

  •  Pain when moving or loading the joint. In time, pain can happen at rest or at night.
  •  Joint stiffness and problems starting your day.
  •  Less range of motion.
  •  Heat and swelling at the joint.
  •  Muscle tightness.
  •  Difficulty moving around.

At this time, we can’t predict how each person will experience osteoarthritis. We do know that exercise works to slow or stop the increase in symptoms. Weight loss for people who are overweight will help as well.


At later stages, osteoarthritis can be seen on an x-ray. It will show a smaller joint space, osteophytes (extra bone growth), cysts (liquid-containing cavities) in the bone, and sclerosis (hardening) of the bone under the cartilage. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or arthroscopic surgery can also show these changes. Despite seeing these changes, a person may not feel any symptoms. On the other hand, symptoms can be felt for 10-15 years before changes show up on an x-ray or MRI. This is why diagnosis for osteoarthritis is done based on symptoms (something you feel that tells us about a problem).