Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis
Rheumatoid Arthritis is difficult to diagnose in early stages. It is difficult to confirm RA as there are no specific tests. The difficulty in confirmation is due to the fact that RA mimics other diseases. However, based on medical history, certain symptoms, physical examination and diagnostic tests, RA can be diagnosed.
Physical examination is considered to be the primary care in suspecting RA. Presence of rheumatoid nodules, swelling, redness and warmth at the joints are checked. Reflexes and muscle strength are also checked. Usually, RA has symmetrical effect i.e., it affects joints on both sides of the body.
Morning stiffness, swelling around the joints, tenderness and painful limited movement are few of the symptoms that indicate RA.
Family and personal medical history can provide clue in diagnosing RA. It is always better to share complete medical history even if the diseases don’t seem to be related.
X-Rays and Scan Tests
X-Ray and scan tests like ultrasound and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) can be done to check for joint damages. Damages such as erosions and narrowing of joint spaces can be identified using these tests. These damages may not appear in the initial stages and indicates severity where the joints are already been affected.
Higher Rheumatoid factors in the blood are usually checked. Presence of certain antibodies linked with RA and inflammatory process in the body can indicate the initial stages of RA. This can be checked through blood tests by understanding the levels of ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate), CRP (C-Reactive Protein) and anti-CCP (anti-Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide). ESR and CRP levels increase whenever there is inflammation in the body.
Monitoring the symptoms and diagnostic tests help in understanding the progression of RA. Doctor will then prescribe medications based on the severity levels in the body. Diagnosing for RA during early stages helps in quicker and better treatment.