We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.

By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more
You are here:

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose your arthritis by asking you about your symptoms and how they’ve developed, examining you and possibly arranging for tests to be done.


Your doctor may ask you about the following symptoms:

  • the site of your pain (whether in the joint or between the joints) and which joints are involved
  • any swelling in or around your joints, including warmth, redness and tenderness, which could signal inflammatory arthritis
  • other aspects of your health, as arthritis can affect other organs in your body.


Your doctor will be able to tell a lot from examining you. They will be looking out for any of these signs:

  • swelling in the joints which may be caused by inflammatory arthritis
  • pain and restricted movement, often with a grating feeling (crepitus), which may indicate degenerative arthritis, such as osteoarthritis
  • tenderness and pain in the soft tissues
  • a rash or mouth ulcers which may occur in some forms of arthritis.

What tests are there for arthritis?

Your doctor might suggest tests to confirm the diagnosis, to rule out other possible causes or to assess the severity of your condition. Tests may include:

  • blood tests – to help make a diagnosis, or to monitor the condition or the drug treatments offered 
  • x-rays – which can show bone abnormalities or damage, but aren't very good for detecting early signs of arthritis
  • a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan – to detect early problems and show inflammation
  • a computerised tomography (CT) scan – which records cross-sections (or 'slices') of the body to give detailed pictures of the skeleton and other tissues
  • an ultrasound scan – which can detect inflammation around the joints (synovitis)
  • synovial fluid analysis – to look at the lubricating fluid from the joints, which can help to detect inflammation, infection and gout
  • a biopsy – where a small amount of tissue is removed and analysed (this is only done when absolutely necessary)
  • a urine test – to help with diagnosis or to monitor drug treatments.


0800 5200 520

Our new helpline: Call us for free information, help and advice on your type of arthritis. Open Mon–Fri 9am–8pm.

All calls are recorded for training and quality purposes

Virtual Assistant

Our new Arthritis Virtual Assistant uses artificial intelligence to answer your arthritis related questions 24/7.

Ask a question
For more information, go to
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.