This work presents a pilot study to show the potential of an emerging imaging modality, near-infrared diffuse optical tomography (DOT), for the diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA). We report quantitative absorption and scattering images of joint tissue that allow for differentiation between diseased and healthy joints. An automatic, multichannel optical imaging system is used to image finger joints from two OA patients and three healthy volunteers. 3-D optical images of the joint tissue are recovered using a finite-element-based reconstruction algorithm. The reconstructed images demonstrate differences in optical properties at the joint region (cartilage/synovial fluid) between the OA and healthy joints. Quantitative analysis from the patients and healthy volunteers also indicate that the recovered joint sizes are consistent with those from x-ray findings. The results of this pilot study show potential for quantitative imaging and diagnosis of early OA by DOT.