20 Important Things Doctors Wish You Knew About Arthritis

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1. X-rays are still the most effective diagnostic tool for arthritis

“You can’t see the cartilage wearing away with an X-ray, but you can see the bones touch, which is usually enough to make a diagnosis,” says Alexis Colvin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Also, a Washington University study suggested that X-rays can identify osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis as accurately as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—and they do it faster and of course more cheaply. But you should always remember: “Just because you don’t have it on the X-ray doesn’t mean you don’t have it,” notes Dr. Colvin.

Doctors can do blood tests and physical exams to discover whether you have arthritis. Spotting it early plays an important role because it gives you bags of time to turn to lifestyle changes before irreversible harm is done to your knees (the most common pain point) or other joints.

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