Can X-ray show arthritis in the knee

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Can x-rays show arthritis in the knee

Can x-rays show arthritis in the knee? Recently, we have seen an immense increase in joint issues and disorders. As a result of which numerous people visited doctors each day. Generally, the doctor prescribes the treatment based on symptoms and specific tests. However, there are times when patients show no or minimal symptoms.

Thus when a patient with knee pain comes, they are mostly recommended to get an x-ray or MRI. However, the point is can x-ray shows arthritis in the knee or not. Therefore, in this article, we will try to find whether it's possible to detect arthritis through x-ray or not.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is one of the most common joint disorders in older adults. Several studies show that arthritis is the most common chronic pain affecting people from all around the world after heart disease. The word arthritis means inflammation, and it shows inflammation on one or more parts of the body. Arthritis affects the joints targeting cartilage in joints, an area where two or more bones contact and moves against each other. It causes inflammation in joints, breakdown tissues, and reactive bone formation. I am sure you have heard about the saying 'bone on bone' which means it narrows the joint space.

There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, among which the most common one is osteoarthritis. It is also known as a degenerative joint disease that causes the cartilage in joints to degenerate. Another popular form of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease of joints. Numerous causes can lead to arthritis by damaging joints and cartilage in the joints. According to a survey, more than 40 million people in the United States have arthritis, among which 60 percent of the population is women. Sometimes children can also develop arthritis due to an injury or an autoimmune disease. Moreover, arthritis can occur in any joints in the body, but certain parts are more prone to it like knees.

Symptoms and Causes:

Some of the most common and widely occur symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain in joints, swelling, and stiffness mainly occurs during the morning or after activities.
  • The motion in joints and spine gets limited.
  • The skin around the spine becomes red or how tenderness
  • Joint catching or locking with movement

These are symptoms of arthritis. However, many people want to know about the causes of arthritis to take precautionary measures before. Therefore, if it's possible, they can minimize the chances of the condition. Causes of arthritis include:

  • Joint injury
  • Repetitive and long term micro-injury over time
  • Wear and tear in joints over the years
  • Obesity
  • Inflammation in the entire body
  • Physical activity
  • Genetics

Can X-ray Show Arthritis in the Knee

In case you are feeling unusual pain and stiffness in your joints, confirm by asking your doctor whether you have arthritis or not. Thus to find out the actual reason, your doctor will recommend a radiograph (x-ray). It is a quick, easy, and painless way to verify the condition. To create images of internal organs, the radiograph uses a low dose of radiations.

X-rays will clearly depict the condition of the bone and joints and how they interact with other joints. Thus, they are essential to evaluate the cartilage amount at the end of bones, any deformities in joints, and underlying conditions in the bones leading to arthritis. Moreover, it can also represent any damage to the bones from arthritis.  

X-rays can show conditions like loss of joint space between femur and tibia, depicting the loss of cartilage and bone spur. In these conditions, bones become tired of compensating cartilage due to cartilage loss by extra bone growth. Moreover, sometimes older people above 50 years show no sign of arthritis, but it can be seen on x-rays. Besides, some people have no experience of pain, but their x-rays show a significant sign of osteoarthritis. On the contrary, there are people with severe knee pain, but their x-rays show few signs of this condition.

 However, keep in mind x-ray is just one of the diagnostic tools that can be used in conjunction with physical examination and patient interviews. Osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis, is commonly diagnosed through radiographs. It shows certain characteristics in x-rays that are distinct from other joints disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Thus by looking at the x-rays, your doctor can prescribe your treatments or lifestyle changes. As a result of which it can reduce the constant pain and inflexibility.

X-Ray Test: When and What to Order

Through our discussion in the above section, we concluded that x-rays show arthritis. However, the critical question is when you should ask for an x-ray. There are certain conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis that can be easily diagnosed through x-rays. On the other hand, x-rays are of little help in bones spur and large effusion. Moreover, soft tissues like muscles, tendons, ligaments, and meniscus will appear in shades of gray on the film. Therefore for these conditions, x-rays are not the best option, and you should go with an MRI option for soft tissue injuries.

Keep in mind that always request an anteroposterior and lateral view of the knees during x-rays. In case there is an issue with the front of the knee, then orders a tangential view. Another critical point is that x-rays taken with patient standing are more useful than those taken with patient lying. While examining x-rays for the knee, always consider space between tibia and femur. The next point to look at in the x-rays is the bones' density near the tibiofemoral joint line. If there is good and uniform spacing between joints, it can rule out the chances of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Taking X-Ray for the Knee

Taking an x-ray for knees is a simple and easy process. In this section, we will explain how you can get an x-ray of your knees to detect arthritis.

  • Preparing for the X-Ray:

In this section, we will explain how you can prepare to get the x-ray of the knee. First of all, you have to go to the x-ray imaging lab to get an x-ray. In the lab, either radiologist or x-ray technician will take your x-rays of the knee and develop an image of your bone structure for a better view. Besides, an x-ray can also be taken at the doctor’s office if it has x-ray instruments and radiologist.

There is nothing much you have to do for an x-ray. All you have to do is remove clothes from your knees so that nothing can block the x-ray from taking a detailed image. Before, an x-ray removes all metal-containing objects like glasses, jewelry, and watches. In case you have a metal implant or any other metal object in your body, inform them in advance. In this way, it won't come in the interpretation of an x-ray.  

Moreover, if you are at a childbearing age, always take a pregnancy test before taking an x-ray. And in case you are pregnant, don't take an x-ray to keep your fetus safe. For pregnant women the best way to get a knee image is through ultrasound or other imaging techniques.

  • Procedure for a Knee X-Ray:

 To take an x-ray, your radiologist will take you to a small separate room. Keep in mind that people who came with you are not allowed to enter the x-ray room to keep them safe from radiation. Either you have to stand, sit, or lie on the bed to get the best image of your knee joints. Sometimes you may feel a little discomfort due to your position. However, in most cases, you will have an object like a pillow to lean or lie against it to minimize discomfort.

Moreover, you will have to wear a lead apron to protect the rest of the body from radiation exposure.  Once you are done with all precautionary measures and in a position to get an x-ray, you have to stay still until the proceedings are completed. Radiologists may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds to get an x-ray with interruptions.

Because if you move too much during x-rays, it might come out blurry. As a result of which you will have to repeat the process. It will not take more than a few minutes for a simple joint x-ray, including the time for repeat procedures. However, in case you were injected with a contrast medium or a dye to improve visibility for the image, it might take more than an hour.

  • Risks of X-Rays:

X-rays contain radiation; consequently, many people think that it might cause severe health conditions like cancer. However, in reality, x-rays contain a little risk of causing cancer or any other radiation side effects. X-rays produce a very low amount of radiation, which is harmless. However, when it comes to young children, they are sensitive to x-ray radiation.

Final Words

One of the treatments used by doctors to detect arthritis is by x-rays (radiographs). Mostly, a form of arthritis-like osteoarthritis can be easily diagnosed through x-rays. However, keep in mind x-rays don't detect issues in soft tissues.


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