Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, there is no blood test that will positively diagnose osteoarthritis. An X ray or MRI, however, can show the degree to which the cartilage of each joint has worn away.
Osteoarthritis hates activity, but you'll love it because regular exercise will help to decrease the pain and stiffness in your joints. That's why you should move your joints as much as you can for as long as possible; it's a good idea to walk at least twenty minutes a day, every day.
When the pain of osteoarthritis flares up, you can take either aspirin or Advil, two or three times a day. Aspirin and Advil are anti-inflammatory medications that help reduce the pain as well as the inflammation, while Tylenol will only help relieve the pain.
If aspirin or Advil doesn't help relieve your pain, your doctor may suggest that you take one of the stronger non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Naprosyn, Feldene, Clinoril, Motrin, or Indocin. The entire class of medications that are used to treat osteoarthritis, including aspirin and Advil—but not Tylenol—are known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs.
Several words of caution, however: NSAIDs can cause ulcers. Your doctor might prescribe a medication such as Carafate or another antiulcer medication to take with the NSAID to protect your stomach. As a greater precaution, NSAIDs should always be taken with food.
NSAIDs can also cause bloating, water retention, and intestinal upset. If you have hypertension, it's probably not a good idea to take them since they can increase your blood pressure even more. And NSAIDs can cause headaches, skin rashes, and kidney problems. In people who are prone to wheezing, they can aggravate the condition, and they can also make abnormalities show up on liver and blood tests.
Because of all these side effects, it's important that your doctor monitor you regularly if you decide to take an NSAID to treat your osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. However, you must take it regularly and it may take up to a week to start to ease your pain.