A simple an inexpensive blood test for the most common form of arthritis has been developed by British scientists.
It is hoped it will be possible diagnose osteoarthritis up to a decade earlier than current techniques, just by analysing a single drop of blood.
Caught early, even something as simple as losing weight could slow progression of the painful and debilitating condition.
The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is caused by wear and tear of cartilage that helps our joints take the strain of bending, lifting, gripping and kneeling.
There is no specific test for it and it is often not diagnosed until it has reached such a late stage that the joints are so badly damaged that surgery is the only option.
The breakthrough, from Warwick University, involves using a single drop of blood to look for tell-tale signs of the condition.
Scientists have shown the blood from people with osteoarthritis contains higher levels of two compounds than samples from healthy people.
The test, which could cost as little as £50 and uses equipment common in hospital labs, is ‘very accurate’.
It correctly diagnosed the condition in 22 out of 30 people, the journal Nature Scientific Reports says.
Importantly, it is able to spot the disease early in its progression and rule out other possible causes of joint pain.
Lead researcher Dr Naila Rabbani said: ‘This is a remarkable and unexpected finding.
‘It could help bring early-stage and appropriate treatment for arthritis, which gives the best chance of effective treatment.’
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