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What Blood Test Shows If You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis

Seronegative Ra Has Become More Common In Recent Years

Medical breakthrough for those with rheumatoid arthritis

According to CreakyJoints, a support, education, advocacy, and research organization for people living with arthritis and rheumatic disease, the majority of rheumatoid arthritis patients are seropositive. But while youre far less likely to be diagnosed with the seronegative type of the disease, those numbers are on the rise, according to a study published in the March 2020 issue of Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Between 1985 and 1994, only 12 out of 10,000 people with RA were seronegative. Between 2005 and 2014, that number crept up to 20 out of 10,000.

Anticitrullinated Protein Antibody Test

An anti-CCP test, also known as ACPA, tests for an antibody associated with RA.

A research review from 2015 found that this test may identify people who are more likely to develop severe and irreversible damage due to RA.

If you test positive for anti-CCP antibodies, theres a good chance you have RA. A positive test also indicates that RA is likely to progress more rapidly.

People without RA almost never test positive for anti-CCP. However, people with RA may test negative for anti-CCP.

To confirm RA, your doctor will look at this test result in combination with other tests and clinical findings.

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What Causes Rheumatoid Factor

It is not exactly known what causes rheumatoid factor to develop in the blood. However, it is thought to be a combination of genetics and other external risk factors. The uncertainty may be because certain people have low levels of rheumatoid factor, which may not ever be enough to trigger a significant autoimmune response.

On the other hand, people who have high levels of rheumatoid factor may go on to develop autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, while others with elevated rheumatoid factor may not develop an autoimmune disorder. It isnt completely known what triggers the autoimmune response that causes rheumatoid arthritis.

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Whatever You Do Dont Take The Cinnamon Challenge

You may have seen videos on the internet of young people trying the Cinnamon Challenge, which involves eating a heaping dry spoonful of the spice. You may have also noticed that it never ends well. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics Perspectives, chugging the spice poses real risks of aspiration, allergic reactions, pulmonary inflammation, and in severe cases, pulmonary pneumonia.

In addition, a study published January 2015 in the Journal of Injury and Violence Research, the Challenge led to lung injuries: The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that the number of calls to poison control centers about teenagers ages 13 to 19 who partook in the challenge increased dramatically from 2011 to 2013.

Important Notice: This article was originally published at by Beth Levine where all credits are due. Medically Reviewed by Alexa Meara, MD

Blood Tests To Help Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Of The Hand

Watch:Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview Video

No single lab test can definitively diagnose the disease, but several lab tests can detect biological markers of RAmeasurable characteristics of the blood that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

The most useful biological markers for the diagnosis of RA are called rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP. Tests for these as well as several other biological markers are described below.

Rheumatoid factor. Rheumatoid factor is an antibody found in the blood. An elevated level of rheumatoid factor along with symmetrical joint pain is an indicator for rheumatoid arthritis.

While a helpful tool, this test alone cannot confirm or eliminate a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, research shows:

  • As few as 30% of people with early rheumatoid arthritis test positive for rheumatoid factor1
  • About 80% of people with established rheumatoid arthritis test positive for rheumatoid factor1
  • A small number of healthy people have elevated levels of rheumatoid factor

Elevated rheumatoid factor may also indicate another rheumatic disease, such as Sjögren syndrome, or other medical conditions, such as chronic lung disease and hepatitis C.

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Treatment Of Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis

Just like seropositive rheumatoid arthritis, seronegative rheumatoid arthritis cannot be reversed.

Treatment of this disorder is focused on alleviating pain and discomfort associated with inflammation around the body. Treatment can also slow the progression of this disease, or stop the progression altogether.

Its important to listen to your body and be aware of the signs and symptoms of RA, because the earlier we can detect this disorder, the greater our chances are of slowing its progression. Seronegative RA causes serious damage to the joints and bones because the body attacks the synovial tissues that cushion the bones. When the synovial tissue and supporting cartilage deteriorate, the bones no longer have the padding they need, and they start to rub against each other, which deteriorates the bones over time.


The symptoms of seronegative rheumatoid arthritis can be treated with NSAIDs medications, like ibuprofen. NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce inflammation and alleviate pain associated with joint swelling. These medications can increase range of motion, as they reduce the swelling that causes stiffness and inhibits movement.

Other medications, specifically disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs , can be taken to slow joint damage caused by seronegative RA. Sulfasalazine is a common DMARD used to slow the progression of seronegative RA and psoriatic arthritis.

Intra-articular Injections

Herbal Remedies



Impact Compared To Existing Technology

There is currently no evidence to support the use of RF or ACPA as diagnostic tests for RA in primary care. ACPA and RF are not useful in patients with a low pre-test probability of RA . In patients with a moderate pre-test probability the effect of a positive ACPA test is better than a positive RF. In patients with a high pre-test probability of RA, either test will perform well. Since both tests have poor sensitivities, negative results should not deter the clinician from a diagnosis of RA.8

One study investigated the outcome of a positive RF or ACPA in patients before the onset of RA symptoms.9 Out of 79 RA patients, 39 had RF and/or ACPA on at least one occasion before symptom onset. Analysis of the RF status in known RA cases showed a positive predictive value of developing RA, 05 years before the onset of symptoms, of 88%. In contrast, the PPV was 97% with an initial positive ACPA result. But in healthy individuals, a positive RF test resulted in a 1.5% risk of developing RA in the subsequent 5 years, whereas a positive ACPA test had a 5.3% risk of developing RA.

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What To Expect During The Tests

You usually do not need to do anything before a blood test for RA, fasting is not required. Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications that may affect your tests.

Wear a garment that allows access to your elbow area for the blood draw. Bring your identification. The healthcare professional drawing the blood will ensure your identification and label the blood draw sample tubes.

A tourniquet will be placed on your arm, the vein area sanitized, and a needle will be used to collect the blood into one or more vials.

After drawing the blood, the site will be bandaged. You should not have any side effects and usually do not need to take any precautions after the test.

These tests are sent to the lab rather than being done in the clinic as a rapid test. Your results will not be available immediately but will be reported to your healthcare provider in hours to a day or more.

Types Of Rheumatoid Arthritis Tests

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed? | Johns Hopkins Rheumatology

In order to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, a doctor begins by discussing a patients symptoms, understanding their medical history, and conducting a physical examination.

Laboratory tests are performed to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, to distinguish it from other forms of arthritis and conditions with similar symptoms, and to evaluate the severity of the disease. Laboratory tests used to diagnose and evaluate rheumatoid arthritis, as well as to rule out other conditions, include:

Test Name
Blood sample How quickly red blood cells settle in a test tube, which can indicate inflammation in the body
Synovial fluid sample Physical, chemical, and microscopic aspects of synovial fluid

Laboratory tests used to monitor rheumatoid arthritis and detect treatment side effects include regular testing of c-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate, as well as hemoglobin, albumin, and platelet count. Additional tests used to detect side effects of treatment depend on the type of treatment or medication a patient is receiving.

Genetic testing may be used in planning treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. In order to understand if a patients body is able to metabolize a type of medication called thiopurine prodrugs, doctors may test patients for variants in the thiopurine methyltransferase and nudix hydrolase 15 genes. Testing for drug metabolism is important to determine a safe dosage of these medications.

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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.

It Became Clear That I Value How My Body Is Behaving Over Blood Test Results Alone And My Doctor Needs To Know This

If we dont share how we are doing outside of the blood tests, our doctors will never know how we are truly doing. My experience directed me to be more aware of my bodys response to treatment, stress, diet, exercise, and sleep by tracking slight changes over time that can reveal an underlying problem within. My advice to anyone who might feel like they are not being heard at their appointments is to start tracking your symptoms then bring that report to your doctor to discuss it and take charge of your arthritis treatment.

About the Author:

Shelley was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Celiac Disease at the age of 42. She has found the most success with her current biologic along with a combination of medicines, diet, and exercise.

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Watch:Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview Video

No single lab test can definitively diagnose the disease, but several lab tests can detect biological markers of RAmeasurable characteristics of the blood that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

The most useful biological markers for the diagnosis of RA are called rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP. Tests for these as well as several other biological markers are described below.

Rheumatoid factor. Rheumatoid factor is an antibody found in the blood. An elevated level of rheumatoid factor along with symmetrical joint pain is an indicator for rheumatoid arthritis.

See Is My Joint Pain Caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis or Another Autoimmune Disorder?

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What Diseases Does The Rheumatoid Factor Test Help Rule Out

Even though low levels of rheumatoid factor dont rule out a diagnosis, high levels might inform a rheumatologists diagnosis. If your RF levels are high, a doctor might lean more toward diagnosing RA, systemic lupus, and other associated diseases than ones not associated with RF levels. If you have a high level of rheumatoid factor, you need a good explanation for it, says Dr. Kaplan.

Check With Your Physician Before Taking Cinnamon Supplements

Can An Orthopedic Doctor Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warns about taking supplements such as cinnamon without first clearing it with your healthcare provider. Cassia cinnamon contains a chemical called coumarin, which may negatively affect your liver if taken in large doses, especially if you already have liver disease.
  • Cinnamon can interfere with blood thinners such as Coumadin .
  • Cinnamon should be used as an adjunct therapy, not in place of prescribed medical care.

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What Happens During An Rf Test

A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

At-home tests for rheumatoid factor are available. The test kit provides everything you need to collect a sample of blood by pricking your finger. You’ll mail your sample to a lab for testing. If you do a home test, it’s important to share your results with your health care provider.

New Symptoms May Change The Diagnosis

Eventually, people with seronegative disease may be diagnosed with a different disease altogether, according to the Arthritis Foundation. If, say, a person diagnosed with seronegative RA develops a skin rash, her diagnosis might change to psoriatic arthritis. Other changes or new test results could lead to a new diagnosis of chronic gout or osteoarthritis. The most important thing at the time you see a rheumatologist is determining whether you have inflammatory arthritis or mechanical arthritis, where there is less that can be done to treat it, says Domingues.

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Rf Test: What Is The Normal Range For A Rheumatoid Factor Test

The rheumatoid factor is an antibody present in the blood of many patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors measure the level of rheumatoid factor by performing a blood test. A positive rheumatoid factor test means that the level of rheumatoid factor in the patients blood is considered to be high.

Rheumatoid factor was first described in connection to rheumatoid arthritis in 1940. For decades, a positive rheumatoid arthritis test was used to diagnose those with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Today, a positive rheumatoid factor test is mostly used as a supportive tool to help doctors reach a diagnosis. Because rheumatoid factor may be present in other conditions, and in some healthy people, the test for it should be combined with other tools and criteria for it to be useful in diagnosis. A positive rheumatoid factor test is also used to determine a general prognosis for rheumatoid arthritis in adults and children.

Why Else Could Rheumatoid Factor Be Positive

Ask The Rheumatologist: Which Tests Should You Do to Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Tested randomly, a positive RF result could sometimes show up in a person without arthritis or other autoimmune disease symptoms, but who has a family history of them, such as RA. But that doesnt mean theyll develop autoimmune problems. Without clinical correlation, it doesnt mean much, says Dr. Schulz. It also is more likely to be higher in healthy older patients.

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Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Always Show Up In Blood Work

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My Experience With Seronegative Ra

Five years ago I was such a case of seronegative arthritis. Over a period of four years I had two ankle surgeries and a bad case of inflammation in both eyes called uveitis. Then I started to have pain and swelling in my fingers coupled with general fatigue. I went to my primary care physician and after taking a history and conducting a physical exam, he immediately sent me to a rheumatologist. All of the blood tests came back negative. Yet, I had bone erosion in my fingers as shown by x-rays and the doctor put me on disease modifying drugs. After symptoms continued unabated, I quickly progressed to using biological treatments.

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How Sensitive And Specific Is The Rheumatoid Factor Test

Sensitivity refers to the proportion of people with a disease who will have a positive test, while specificity is the opposite: the proportion of people without the disease who will have a negative result.

For rheumatoid arthritis, the RF test has a sensitivity of 69 percent, according to a study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. This means that 69 percent of people with RA will be positive for rheumatoid factor. The sensitivity of the rheumatoid factor blood test is 85 percent, which means that 85 percent of the general population can be expected to test negative, but 15 percent might test positive even without having RA.

The tests for anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide , another kind of antibody, are a more specific alternative to rheumatoid factor, says Stuart D. Kaplan, MD, chief of rheumatology at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New York.

Inflammation And Other Forms Of Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Hand » Irvine, CA

Some infections can lead to joint destruction and this occurs much quicker than with other forms of arthritis. It is crucial to rule out an infection when arthritis affects a single joint.

Gout: A common and painful condition that affects the joints and tendons. Small crystals of uric acid form in and around the joint which causes inflammation, pain and swelling. An attack of gout usually comes on very quickly, often overnight. The joint becomes red, swollen and painful. It often affects one joint at a time, such as the big toe.

Inflammation: A localised physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful. Inflammation is a common symptom of arthritis, and is the cause and the result of all forms of arthritis.

This info sheet was reviewed and updated by Prof. Susanna Proudman, Medical Director, Arthritis Australia and Dr Stephen Adelstein, Pathology Awareness Australia ambassador.

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