How to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis?

hand rheumatoid arthritis
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People with rheumatoid arthritis experience pain and weakness in their bodies without knowing why. The health condition has similar symptoms like at least 20 other diseases, that’s why it is so hard to be diagnosed. In addition, rheumatoid arthritis can interfere with the patient’s daily life. The patient won’t be able to participate in the daily activities so depression and anxiety appear immediately. Helplessness might cause low self-esteem eventually. As you notice, having a disease like that is not like a walk in the park. Of course, as you can read in this rheumatoid arthritis treatment article by Doctor Dwight, if the condition is caught and diagnosed early it is manageable so let’s see how doctors diagnose this condition. It is impossible for one test to determine if the patient suffers from it exactly. There are a bunch of tests and examination until a complete diagnose is ready.

What are the tests that diagnose rheumatoid arthritis?

Every time when you don’t feel healthy, you probably visit your GP. You tell him your symptoms, he defines your diagnose and prescribes you pills. That’s how things work if you have something simple, like flue or a cold. If you have something that your GP is unable to define but he doubts in RA then he sends you to a rheumatologist. This doesn’t mean that your GP is not an expert; this means that there are experts in this medical area who are focused in arthritis only. Referring is not a bad thing so don’t panic.

Test 1 – Blood test

A blood test is only the first one that will show whether there is an inflammation. For those of you who have already had a blood test, you probably know that it could measure different things. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis have higher C-reactive protein and higher erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Red cells are signed for anemia so there is a test for them, too. You might have anemia but this doesn’t mean you have rheumatoid arthritis. Let’s summarize, you will need to examine:

  • Red blood cells;
  • Levels of c-creative protein;
  • Levels of erythrocyte sedimentation.

Test 2 – Do you have a Rheumatoid factor

This factor is an antibody that appears in people who have RA. However, its presence doesn’t mean that you have rheumatoid arthritis. Almost 20% of people who have this antibody don’t have arthritis. However, there is another antibody, which is a certain factor for the existence of the disease – anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide. This is the stronger clue that doctors can rely on for a prove.

Test 3 – an Imaging test

Probably you know that RA affects bones, joints, and cartilages. Narrowing joint space can be painful because it suppresses nerves. Imaging test will show amendments in bones and joints. That’s how rheumatologist will find out if your disease is advanced or not. The bad thing about these tests is that if the RA is still, in the beginning, there won’t be any visible damages. Imagine tests include:

  • Ultrasound scan;
  • Magnetic resistance scans. MRI scans use radio waves and magnetic fields to make a complete image of the integrity of the body;
  • X-rays use radiation so it is not the healthiest one.

rheumatoid arthritis x rays

Test 4 – Physical exam

Inevitable, you will reach that point where the doctor has to check your joints manually. He will want to see if there is a swelling and pain so you have to answer honestly to his answers. An interesting fact is that rheumatoid arthritis will cause pain not only in the left or right knee, it will cause pain in both knees. Physical examination will reveal if there are fever and rheumatoid nodules also so you don’t have to underestimate it. In addition, your doctor might want to check if you are dealing with your daily tasks. He will want to observe your movements and strength. Probably, you have changed your movements because of the pain but don’t realize it. Sometimes, people managed to adapt without paying attention to the change.

What are the most common symptoms of RA?

  • People with RA have numbness and stiffness in feet and hands. The pain is stronger in the mornings and is symmetrical – both hands will be weakened. However, sometimes one of the hands will be dominant and the pain will be stronger there;
  • Swelling will appear in the joint membrane and the joints will be soft on touch. In addition, they might be full of liquid because of inflammation;
  • People feel tired all the time. The reason is for inflammation and pain;
  • People can’t maintain little things with their hands – for example, buttons are extremely hard for fastening. Cup holding is another hard task.

All these symptoms might lead to RA but as we mentioned all tests should confirm it. If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, don’t panic and follow your doctor recommendations.