(RxWiki News) Millions of Americans suffer from a painful condition called osteoarthritis. In the past, doctors could not diagnose the condition until patients started showing symptoms. Now, that might change.
Researchers have developed a test that can detect if a person is developing osteoarthritis before symptoms like joint pain and swelling being to show.
This new test may allow doctors to start treatment early, or even stop the disease before it starts.
"Tell your doctor if you are feeling joint pain."
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, which affects about 27 million adults in the United States.
The test developed by James Cook, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri, and colleagues could end up protecting millions more Americans from developing the condition.
The test can work from just one drop of fluid from a patient's joint. It looks for certain biomarkers that tell doctors if a patient is developing arthritis and how badly the condition will affect that patient.
"With this biomarker test, we can study the levels of specific proteins that we now know are associated with osteoarthritis," explains Dr. Cook.
"Not only does the test have the potential to help predict future arthritis, but it also tells us about the early mechanisms of arthritis, which will lead to better treatments in the future," he says.
The researchers developed the new test by looking at the joints of dogs with arthritis. Osteoarthritis is very common among dogs. In fact, veterinarians estimate that as many as 90 percent of older dogs have osteoarthritis in at least one joint.
Dogs' joints work in much the same way as human joints. As such, according to Dr. Cook, the test is quickly being adapted to humans.
"This test has already shown early usefulness for allowing us to monitor how different treatments affect the arthritic joints in people," says Dr. Cook.
As research continues, he says, the test will allow doctors to design treatment for individual patients.
Since the test can predict osteoarthritis, Dr. Cook explains that doctors can use it to convince patients to take steps - such as exercising and eating healthy - to prevent arthritis.
Even though this research was done on dogs, human studies are underway. The test is currently going through the FDA approval process.
The study by Dr. Cook and colleagues is published in the Journal of Knee Surgery.