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Rheumatoid Arthritis—Diagnosis

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed?
Your Rheumatologist will take your history & also examine your joints. Inflamed joints are characterized by pain & swelling. Rheumatologist will make the diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis based on the swelling in the joints & the pattern of the joints involved.
What investigations are commonly asked for a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Your Rheumatologist may ask for a few blood tests & other investigations to confirm the diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis.
Commonly asked investigations include-
Rheumatoid factor.
ESR/ CRP
Anti CCP antibody
X rays of the joints.
I have positive Rheumatoid factor; does this mean I have Rheumatoid Arthritis?
No. A positive rheumatoid factor test does not necessarily mean that one has Rheumatoid Arthritis. Always consult a Rheumatologist for a definite diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I have been diagnosed to have Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, my rheumatoid factor test is negative.
What does that mean?
Rheumatoid factor need not always be positive for one to have Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is negative in almost 35% patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
What is ESR? Why is my ESR high?
ESR is a blood test to measure the inflammation in the body. Arthritis patients have high ESR due to the ongoing inflammation in the joints. However, arthritis is not the only condition associated with high ESR. Infections, other autoimmune diseases will also lead to a high ESR. It is best left to the doctor to interpret the ESR result.
How do X ray of the joints help in diagnosing Rheumatoid arthritis?
X rays of the joints do show characteristic changes & help confirm the diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis. The characteristic changes include bone loss at the edges of the bone (erosions) & loss of joint cartilage (space). X rays are often normal in early stages of Rheumatoid arthritis & do not help much in the diagnosis.
How does a sonography/ MRI help diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis?
Sonography/ MRI can show the thickened synovium in the joints & confirm the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis Sonography/ MRI help to diagnose Rheumatoid arthritis early.
When is a synovial biopsy required for diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Synovial biopsy is generally required when a single joint is inflamed. The biopsy is required to rule out other causes of single joint inflammation, particulrly infection.


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Also Read:
How to arrange your kitchen if you have arthritis?
How to plan a house cleaning job if you have arthritis.
Carpal Tunnel syndrome
Anti CCP antibody in diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis.
Palindromic rheumatism
Rheumatoid factor
Rheumatoid nodule
What if I don't treat my Rheumatoid arthritis?
Created on: April 2007
Last updated on: Feb 2015
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