Degenerative joint disease, also called osteoarthritis, is characterized by the inflammation and diminishing of the cartilage that surrounds the joint, which results in debilitating pain. This condition affects more than 25 million Americans. If not properly diagnosed, the remaining cartilage, which serves as a shock absorber for the joints, may disappear completely, eliminating the sufferer’s ability to move or perform even the simplest of tasks.
Diagnostic Tests for Osteoarthritis
There are two ways to confirm the existence and determine the severity of osteoarthritis—joint aspiration and imaging. Joint aspiration involves examining extracted fluid from the joint to see evidence of deterioration. While this is undoubtedly effective, it takes time to finish and come up with a conclusion. By imaging the affected area, however, doctors can gather vital information about the condition in no time.
X-Ray and MRI
Imaging internal organs such as the joints can be done in two ways—X-ray and MRI. An X-ray test involves targeting an area of the body with x-rays, a type of radiation, to take pictures of the tissues and organs underneath the skin. MRI, on the other hand, uses a very powerful magnet to cause the nuclei of every atoms in the body to produce a rotating magnetic field that can be detected by a specialized scanner.
Because MRI does not use radiation, which is known to have a negative effect on living cells, it is considered a much safer technique by many. Apart from that, since it images the body down to the atomic level, it produces better pictures of the cartilage and other parts of the bone, making it easier for doctors to detect osteoarthritis. In fact, many health centers have now replaced X-ray with MRI due to its apparent advantages.
Other Perks of MRI
The accuracy pf MRI technology allows doctors to detect early, non-binary signs of arthritis, which are usually invisible on a radiograph. As a result, a treatment plan can be prepared and implemented much earlier to prevent the condition from developing. MRI can reveal other valuable information, including bone erosion and synovitis, in which case doctors have to resort to blood tests.
Understanding the reliability of MRI is the first step to enjoying its advantages over other imaging techniques. If you feel your joints hurt every time you move, it can be a sign of osteoarthritis. You have to see a doctor to have your bones imaged with MRI right away.
What is an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)?, livescience.com
Osteoarthritis Diagnosis, arthritis.org