Like most things in the prognosis and outlook of many health conditions, early diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) also can be good for the outcome of the disease. If this degenerative is detected early, sufferers can get appropriate treatment sooner and the progression of the disease could be better monitored and controlled, potentially leading to better prognosis.
Currently, x-rays and other imaging tests are the common choices to help make the diagnosis of OA. But in these imaging tests, it’s not easy to find the early stage of this joint disease. See more common tests to diagnose OA in this section!
For instance, x-ray only can provide the narrowed distance of two bones in the joint. If the space is too small, doctor can say that you have OA. If this distance is large enough, you don’t have OA. But this can be very limiting! Furthermore, the narrowed space revealed in x-ray test is OA at advanced stage.
The cartilage cushions each end of the bone in the joint. It can help protect the end of bone from friction each time you move the joint, provide the smoothly movement.
In OA, the cartilage in the joint degenerates and breakdowns! Typically, it tends to occur as the age. But in a few cases, the damaged cartilage can be caused by an accident or injury.
The degenerated cartilage can make the bones in the joint become closer to each other. And this can be revealed through an x-ray test, as noted before.
MRI and CT-scan are other options for imaging test. They are more sensitive to help catch the early stage of OA. However, experts say that it can be much better if there is a quantitative way that can assess the progression and stage of the disease.
Several techniques for diagnosing this joint disease earlier are being tested by researchers. One of them is the use of negatively charged molecules (glycosaminoglycans /GAGs) and positively charged molecules (CA4+).
There are currently three conventional parameters that are commonly used to diagnose OA at early stage:
- Biochemical markers! There are several different markers used – some of them include antibodies, enzymes, and cytokines. Experts are designing a research to find which one of the most effective markers that can be found in sufferer even before the classic symptom of OA such as joint pain appears or the advanced disease can be relieved through imaging test such as x-ray.
- The assessment from biomechanical factor! In this category, the assessment is based on the way of walking gait of someone who may have OA. If this could be done, biomechanical assessment could the effective and practical option to diagnose the disease earlier.
- Still, imaging test also can be involved in detecting OA earlier – but not with x-rays, though sometime a series of x-ray views may be used. As mentioned before, other imaging tests such as quantitative CT-scan and MRI can provide more sensitive result.
With the combination of CT-scan and a series of x-ray tests, GAGs (negatively charged molecules) can help assess the strength and durability of the cartilage. A high GAG count signals the healthy cartilage. On the other hand, low count may signal the onset of OA.
Researchers believe that the use of CA4+ and GAGs can be an effective marker for both biomechanical and biochemical health of the tissue of the cartilage in the joint. This finding is not final yet, further research is required before eventually this method can be widely used in the health community.