The doctor will first obtain a history of the patient's symptoms and health over the past several years. Those who suffer from shoulder arthritis typically report an increase in pain over several years. The doctor will ask if the patient has any conditions that may be the underlying cause of osteoarthritis such as:
Previous trauma or surgery to the shoulder
An infection in the shoulder
A previous rotator cuff tear
Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in other joints
Next, the doctor will do a physical examination of the shoulder to evaluate the symptoms and reveal other conditions that may exist.
X-ray imaging of the shoulder can confirm a diagnosis of glenohumeral arthritis. With x-ray, the doctor can see structural changes that indicate arthritis, such as:
Irregularity of the joint surface
Osteophytes, typically located on the lower part of the joint
Bone erosion on the humeral head, glenoid, or both. Glenoid bone loss is often visible on the backside of the joint.
Other imaging techniques used to make the diagnosis include:
CT-Scan (Computer Tomography) - This test shows the extent of glenoid bone loss and any anatomic abnormalities that may affect treatment.
Arthrogram - This technique is useful in the evaluation of rotator cuff tears
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) - Although not as commonly used to diagnose arthritis as other imaging studies, an MRI can provide detailed information about the soft tissue structures of the joint.