The mucopolysaccharidoses (MPSs) often present a diagnostic challenge, particularly for patients who have more slowly progressive disease phenotypes, as early disease manifestations can be subtle or non-specific. However, certain types of bone and joint involvement should always prompt consideration of an MPS diagnosis, such as early joint involvement without classic inflammatory features or erosive bone lesions, claw hand, spinal deformities or dysostosis multiplex. All such patients should be referred to a geneticist or metabolic specialist for diagnostic evaluation. The earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the potential outcome of treatment. Each type of MPS is associated both with deficient activity of a specific lysosomal enzyme that degrades specific glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and with abnormalities in urinary GAG excretion. MPS patients usually excrete excess GAG in urine and/or have different relative proportions of types of GAG in urine as compared with age-matched normal subjects. Although urinary GAG analyses (both quantitative and qualitative) can suggest the most likely type of MPS, diagnosis must be confirmed by enzyme assay. Multiple assays may be necessary to identify the disease subtype. Correct identification of the MPS type is essential to guide treatment and management decisions.