Theyll Order Imaging Tests
Rheumatoid arthritis impacts the lining of joints, which leads to damage of joint tissue. Your doctor may order X-rays to check for joint damage caused by RA . Sometimes, doctors order CT scans, ultrasounds or even MRIs as well. X-rays in early stages may not show the changes, caused by RA, Dr. Khan says. Ultrasound and MRI give far more information about the joint lining and whether or not the tissues around the joints are inflamed.
What Is Involved In Reviewing Your Medical History And Your Current Symptoms
When reviewing your medical history, your healthcare provider may ask the following questions:
Have you had any illnesses or injuries that may explain the pain?
Is there a family history of arthritis or other rheumatic diseases?
What medication are you currently taking?
Your healthcare provider may also ask:
What symptoms are you having? For example, pain, stiffness, difficulty with movement, or swelling.
About your pain:
What makes it worse?
I Spent Hours Catastrophizing The Worse
The death of my aunt the first week of my diagnosis obviously influenced how I thought my disease would impact my life. She was diagnosed before the time of biologics and the standard medications they had at the time of her diagnosis didnt work for her, so she had curled fingers, surgical joint replacements, comorbidities, and was wheelchair bound for the 29 years I knew her. I never saw her walk more than a few steps, and that was with help.
When I googled my disease I would focus on the severity of the disease, when I joined groups I saw others talking about how medications and their doctors failed them. I assumed all of this would happen to me.
I did not know yet that every case of arthritis is different. Someone elses outcome is not my outcome. There are new emerging treatments coming out all the time and I can be a part of that change by participating in research or taking part in fundraising events.
Recommended Reading: Does Ra Cause Back Pain
Measures To Reduce Bone Loss
Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis. The use of prednisone further increases the risk of bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women.
You can do the following to help minimize the bone loss associated with steroid therapy:
- Use the lowest possible dose of glucocorticoids for the shortest possible time, when possible, to minimize bone loss.
- Get an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D, either in the diet or by taking supplements.
- Use medications that can reduce bone loss, including that which is caused by glucocorticoids.
- Control rheumatoid arthritis itself with appropriate medications prescribed by your doctor.
Patient Advocate Eileen Davidson Takes An Honest Look At Her Seven
When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2015, my world was opened to what an autoimmune disease was. I struggled with the fact of having arthritis before gray hairs and wrinkles and before my 30th birthday. But there I was, 29 years old and my world turned upside down after I was told, You have rheumatoid arthritis.
No doubt that after my diagnosis I fell into a deep pit of despair that was incredibly hard to come out of. Not only was I just diagnosed with this painful debilitating disease but my aunt, who also lived with RA 40 years prior to me, passed away the same week of my diagnosis. I saw how RA ravished her body and what it did to her life. I thought this was to be my fate. I was terrified.
It was not though.
Now, seven years into my diagnosis I can look back and realize where I made some mistakes or was wrong in the beginning years of my diagnosis. I still may be making mistakes I just havent figured them out yet. I am nowhere near perfect. I am only human after all.
Don’t Miss: Arthritis In Fingers Prevention
Treatment Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis continues to improve, which can give many people relief from symptoms, improving their quality of life. Doctors may use the following options to treat RA:
- Routine monitoring and ongoing care.
- Complementary therapies.
Your doctor may recommend a combination of treatments, which may change over time based on your symptoms and the severity of your disease. No matter which treatment plan your doctor recommends, the goals are to help:
- Relieve pain.
- Prevent, slow, or stop joint and organ damage.
- Improve your ability to participate in daily activities.
Rheumatoid arthritis may start causing joint damage during the first year or two that a person has the disease, so early diagnosis and treatment are very important.
Just Received A Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis This Is What I Wish I Knew When I Got Mine
1 The first medication you try might not work. Or the second. It can take years to find a treatment that you respond to because you might not respond to TNF inhibitors. So dont pin your hopes on the first treatment you try or the second or the fifth, but dont give up. Your doctors will do their best to help you find a treatment that works.
2 You cant do everything that you used it. And thats not the end of the world! Theres still a lot that you can do, and youll find new activities and people that will ensure that you still have a great life.
3 Some of the things youre eating might make it worse. Test all sorts of foods to find what you react to so you can reduce your pain. Plus, this will make you eat healthier overall.
4 Every patient is different, which can be great and awful at the same time. Accept that what works for someone else might not work for you, but definitely crowd source medications and treatments with the amazing chronic illness community to get opinions because there are some people who will have had similar experiences to yours, if not exactly the same.
What do you wish you knew when you were diagnosed with your chronic illness?
Like this post? Check out:
10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got My Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis
Read Also: How To Ease Arthritis Pain In Fingers
I Stopped Medications For Six Months Because I Was Afraid Of Them
For about six months after the first half dozen failed medications, I completely stopped my RA medication and basically lived in denial that I was sick. Leaving my disease uncontrolled like that wasnt the best idea.
You see RA is best treated early if you want to have a better outcome. I did it because I was scared of the medications and their side effects, and I wasnt ready to accept I was sick. Eventually I started to look at Dr. Google and see what happens when my disease is left untreated, then I booked an appointment to see my rheumatologist again immediately.
I half expected her to be upset and shame me but instead she told me that most of her patients do the same thing I did. Hearing that made me feel so less alone and eliminated a lot of the guilt I felt from giving up on my medications.
How Well Your Body Responds To Ra Medications
Finding the appropriate medications or series of treatments to manage your RA is important to slowing its progression. By using a DAS score over the course of your treatment, your doctor will be able to track your response to medications.
Everyone is different, and you may not respond well to the initial treatments provided by your doctor. When this happens, it is easy to become discouraged. However, you can also view this as a process of getting closer to finding the right treatment for you.
Don’t Miss: How Painful Is Ra
Making A Diagnosis Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Diagnosis of RA is not straight forward as there is no individual test for RA. A diagnosis tends to be made by a consultant rheumatologist on the basis of tests, examination and ruling out other possible causes for symptoms.
Sometimes it is clear from symptoms and initial blood tests that someone has rheumatoid arthritis, but not always. Specialist criteria have been developed jointly by American and European experts to try to help make a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in people presenting with new-onset swollen, painful joints with no obvious cause . These should be used with care though as people with osteoarthritis or a crystal arthritis could meet the criteria and end up being incorrectly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which could have significant consequences for treatment. They have also been developed to classify, not diagnose, rheumatoid arthritis and so should not be used to decide who gets referred.
As already mentioned above, there are a number of other conditions that can cause very similar symptoms to rheumatoid arthritis and your GP will have to consider these when assessing each case.
I Let The Warning Signs Simmer For Far Too Long
I would say the first mistake I made was letting my symptoms simmer before advocating for myself to get a proper exam. For years I thought my pain was carpal tunnel because doctors made the assumption. I blamed myself for this pain because of my job and the many hours of computer use. I blamed how I felt on my diet and lack of exercise too. Obviously, that was a culprit in how I was feeling but when I tried to exercise like my peers it would hurt.
I didnt know what was wrong with me, or how to explain what I was experiencing, so I let my symptoms simmer until they were too hard to ignore.
Also Check: Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Worse At Night
Diagnosing Ra In Outlier Patients
Some cases of RA may be different or more difficult to diagnose then others, and certain routine tests and exams might not be as helpful. These include patients with a very recent onset of disease, people whose RA is inactive, and those with seronegative RA.
In these situations, making an RA diagnosis may take more time, or more weight may be given to certain factors, but RA can still be accurately established.
In people with inactive RA, for example, a rheumatologist may rely less on CRP and ESR tests and more on RF and anti-CCP tests, as well as evidence of characteristic joint erosions on imaging, if the disease has been present for long enough to develop erosions.
When Should I See A Specialist For Rheumatoid Arthritis
In general, patients with RA will benefit from seeing a specialist as early as possible. Most often the specialists treating this disease are trained in rheumatology. Their knowledge of medications to treat this disease can help patients make informed decisions consistent with their values and goals. These specialists can also help provide a balanced perspective on the benefits of treating the disease well vs. any potential side effects.
Patients diagnosed with RA are encouraged to become the captain of their multidisciplinary team of health providers. These include the primary care physician, the rheumatologist, the physical therapist, social worker, education programs and other members of the health care system will bring about a coordinated treatment program that is both safe and effective. The primary care physician or internist commonly works in partnership with a rheumatologist. Referral to a specialist in rheumatology most commonly occurs in the following situations:
- when the diagnosis is in question
- at the start of therapy, in order to provide expert input into the optimal medication and physical therapy regimen
- during the course of the illness to define response to or alteration in the treatment regimen
- in the setting of possible medication side effects
- progressive disease despite therapy
- a single joint that is leading to significant functional limitation
- the presence of fever, marked fatigue, or weight loss
- prior to orthopedic surgery
Read Also: What To Do For Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
Tests That Help Diagnose Ra
To help confirm or disprove RA, your rheumatologist will also have lab tests done. The lab tests would point to likelihood of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as potentially rule out other possibilities on the differential diagnosis, says Dr. Neogi. These tests may include:
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein blood tests detect and measure inflammation in your body. If inflammation levels are elevated, it helps build the case for an RA diagnosis. If inflammation levels are normal, says Dr. Neogi, That might dissuade us from thinking about an inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis, but would not rule it out. Since inflammation is present in many diseases, these tests do not confirm whether you have RA by themselves.
Rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody blood tests look for proteins associated with RA. Testing positive for one increases your chances of RA diagnosis, while testing positive for both raises your odds even more. However, up to 50 percent of RA patients dont have RF or anti-CCP antibodies. They are diagnosed based on other factors. In these cases, the RA is considered to be seronegative.
The possibility of some autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and Sjögrens syndrome, can be eliminated with the help of an antinuclear antibody blood test, while a synovial fluid analysis, which examines the fluid that lubricates your joints, can help count out gout by looking for crystals under the microscope.
Clinical Diagnosis Of Inflammatory Arthritis Is Not Always Straightforward
The history of swelling in joints, early morning stiffness lasting > 30 minutes, systemic symptoms such as tiredness combined with objective evidence of synovitis would favour a diagnosis of inflammatory arthritis . However, reality can be more complex:
Objective signs may be lacking or have been suppressed by anti-inflammatory medication
Joint swelling can be difficult to identify in obese patients
The sensation that joints are swollen may be reported even by some patients with fibromyalgia
Osteoarthritis as well as RA can cause morning stiffness, though in osteoarthritis it usually lasts less than 30 minutes
Inflammatory markers such as the ESR or C-reactive protein are normal in about 60% of patients with early RA
In a patient with preceding osteoarthritis, radiographic changes can be misleading, especially if those suggestive of inflammatory arthritis have not yet developed.
Don’t Miss: What Can Be Done For Arthritis
What Tests Are Done For Rheumatoid Arthritis
The diagnosis of RA is based on a person’s clinical signs and symptoms, but it is supported by laboratory tests, including X-rays and various blood tests, including but not exclusively the rheumatoid factor, anti-CCP.
If a person exhibits a clinical pattern of symptoms and signs that suggestive they have rheumatoid arthritis, a variety X-rays and blood tests will be performed. Certain blood tests can help to confirm the diagnosis, but a negative test does not necessarily mean a person does not have RA it.
Approximately half of people developing rheumatoid arthritis will have blood test results that demonstrate inflammation. These tests are called acute phase reactants. Examples of these are an erythrocyte sedimentation rate and a C-reactive protein . These tests are performed to assess the activity of the disease in combination with an assessment of the patients symptoms and physical findings.
Getting A Diagnosis Before Getting Tested
I myself was initially misdiagnosed. I was a teenager when my first symptom of RA developed.
Following a tennis match, my knee became very swollen and painful. My family doctor in Cleveland, Ohio, drained the knee and gave me a cortisone shot. But it recurred four times over eight weeks. My doctor repeated his treatment routine, diagnosed it as a sports injury and told me to take aspirin. He never sent the knee joint fluid to be examined. He discarded it. Over time and not too long a time my symptoms spread to my hip. My family doctor referred me to an orthopedic doctor who also thought it was a sports injury. I requested a referral to a rheumatologist about one or two years after my initial symptoms, and after further testing, I was diagnosed with RA at age 19.
Don’t Miss: How To Get Rid Of Arthritis In Wrist
Rheumatoid Arthritis Blood Tests
The rheumatoid arthritis blood tests that doctors perform to help diagnose the disease include:
- Rheumatoid factor
- C-Reactive Protein
- Antinuclear Antibody
None of these tests can singularly conclude that a patient has rheumatoid arthritis. Rather, doctors look at the combined results from all, alongside a number of other criteria including physical symptoms and genetics, in order to reach a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.
The 2010 Acr/eular Classification Criteria Guidelines
Sometimes people who have been diagnosed with RA take part in studies or clinical trials perhaps to try a promising drug or study ways to improve quality of life.
To identify RA patients with typical features of RA who are suitable for these important studies, scientists use a set of guidelines created by the American College of Rheumatology and the European League Against Rheumatism. These are called the 2010 ACR/EULAR classification criteria.
For classification purposes to be considered for enrollment into studies, patients must first have at least one inflamed joint that cant be explained by another condition. Then theyre evaluated for classification based on the following:
- Joint involvement. Which joints are swollen? How many are affected? Are they large or small?
- Serology test results. What are the results of RF and/or ACPA tests?
- Acute-phase reactant test results. Are the results of CRP and/or ESR tests normal or abnormal?
- Duration of symptoms. Have symptoms been around more or less than six weeks?
Others who may be eligible for studies include long-time RA patients whose past symptoms fulfill the criteria, those with joint damage very characteristic of RA, and those with new RA who are receiving treatment.
You May Like: Arthritis Medicine Side Effects