What Is Rheumatoid Factor
The immune system is an organized method through which the body fights off infections caused by bacteria, viruses and other organisms. A normal immune response to infection often involves the production of proteins such as antibodies to kill these invading organisms.
Sometimes, however, certain antibodies produced by the immune system may attack healthy proteins. In other words, the antibodies turn against the persons body damaging their health in the process.
When this occurs, the immune response that is triggered may result in what we now know as an autoimmune disorder. A variety of conditions have been shown to occur from these autoimmune responses.
Rheumatoid factor is one of many antibodies that are known to attack healthy tissue through an autoimmune process. When triggered, rheumatoid factor antibodies attack the healthy tissue resulting in a variety of symptoms.
Typically, these symptoms cause inflammation in the synovium a layer of soft tissue on the inner surface of joints, eventually leading to rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid factor can also cause other symptoms seen in autoimmune disorders like Sjogrens Syndrome.
What Do Rheumatoid Factor Test Results Mean
Testing positive for rheumatoid does not necessarily mean the patient has rheumatoid arthritis. A positive for rheumatoid factor test results means that it can lead to or is the cause of inflammatory symptoms from an autoimmune disorder.
In certain cases, however, patients may test positive for rheumatoid factor, yet remain healthy and never experience any obvious symptoms.
Rheumatoid factor can be present in patients several months or even years before clinical rheumatoid arthritis symptoms develop. Depending on the level of symptoms a patient exhibits, the rheumatoid factor test results can assist doctors in reaching a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.
Positive rheumatoid factor results in someone who has been clinically diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis may also indicate the potential for a more aggressive disease course. This is possible in both children and adult patients.
Patients who test negative for rheumatoid factor but still exhibit symptoms and meet other diagnostic criteria may still be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Testing For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Testing for Rheumatoid Arthritis
About Arthritis What Is Arthritis?. Lab tests and imaging tests can help your doctor make the diagnosis.. High levels of rheumatoid factor could help your doctor make a diagnosis of RA.. The test is often conducted along with an RF test.. These imaging tests may be used to diagnose RA.. A CT scan is an imaging procedure that combines a series of X-ray images to create cross-sectional images of parts of the body.. Measuring levels of enzymes in the blood can help your doctor determine if you have liver damage, which may be related to RA treatment, an associated autoimmune condition or RA itself.. They may be the same as those used in diagnosing RA, including. X-ray Magnetic resonance imaging Ultrasound CT Scan. Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.. Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.. As a partner, you will help the Arthritis Foundation provide life-changing resources, science, advocacy and community connections for people with arthritis, the nations leading cause of disability.
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What Is Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis
When a patient tests negative for RF and anti-CCP antibodies, yet they still display strong symptoms consistent with rheumatoid arthritis, they are given a diagnosis of seronegative rheumatoid arthritis.
The term seronegative means they dont possess the antibodies that seropositive patients do. In other words, seronegative patients may also simply possess extremely low levels of the antibodies not enough for the test to detect.
Many seronegative rheumatoid arthritis patients go on to develop antibodies years after their initial diagnosis, which then changes their diagnosis to seropositive rheumatoid arthritis. This is one of the many reasons that a patient can still be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis even if they are seronegative.
Blood And Pathology Tests For Arthritis Arthritis Australia
Blood tests can be useful to help diagnose some, but not all, types of arthritis. Always discuss your blood test results with your doctor.
Then tests may be done.. Most forms of arthritis can be diagnosed by blood tests.. Healthy people without RA can also test positive for RF, particularly older people.. This does not mean they will develop the condition.. The ANA test may also be positive in other conditions, such as Sjögrens syndrome, scleroderma, Raynauds disease and rheumatoid arthritis.. Rheumatoid Arthritis : A common inflammatory form of arthritis that causes pain and swelling of the joints and other organs in the body, such as the lungs and skin.. Gout: A common and painful condition that affects the joints and tendons.. Inflammation is a common symptom of arthritis, and is the cause and the result of all forms of arthritis.
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Can A Blood Test Show Pain Levels
Answer: There are no specific blood tests that determine the level of pain you’re experiencing. There are certain blood tests that may be required to determine whether specific medical conditions, for example, Lyme disease, or rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes, are causing or contributing to your painful condition.
A Final Word From Creakyjoints
If youre diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, youll likely have many questions about next steps and starting treatment. Our downloadable guidelines, A Patients Guide to Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis, provide key info you need to know.
You can also , to start tracking your RA symptoms and have the opportunity to participate in voluntary research studies.
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What Do The Results Mean
A high concentration of RF can be a sign of inflammation and autoimmune disruption.
Around 80% of people with RA have significant concentrations of RF in their blood. In the early stages of arthritis, about 30% of people may have raised levels of RF.
However, higher levels of RF can also occur in other conditions. Autoantibodies can also occur as part of the natural aging process.
That said, if a person has unusually high RF levels and also experiences symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, it is likely they have rheumatoid arthritis.
Some signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- general fatigue
How high a persons RF levels are will factor into a doctors diagnosis. Very high levels can be more indicative of rheumatoid arthritis than lower levels, as this points to more activity in the immune system.
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.
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What Else Could It Be
When a doctor thinks about how likely you are to have one disease over another, or over several others, this is called a differential diagnosis. There are many conditions your doctor may consider besides RA, and besides other forms of autoimmune arthritis:
Viral arthritis: Rubella, parvovirus, and hepatitis B and C can lead to short-term arthritis symptoms that resemble RA.
Palindromic rheumatism: Periodic joint inflammation that may lead to RA, lupus, and similar diseases
Polymyalgia rheumatica: This is more common over age 50, generally less painful than RA, and associated more with shoulders and hips.
Inflammation And Other Forms Of Arthritis
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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Ask A Laboratory Scientist
This form enables patients to ask specific questions about lab tests. Your questions will be answered by a laboratory scientist as part of a voluntary service provided by one of our partners, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. Please allow 2-3 business days for an email response from one of the volunteers on the Consumer Information Response Team.
The Role Of Blood Tests
Blood tests dont provide a simple yes-or-no answer to whether you have RA. But they can help your doctor steer toward a diagnosis. Blood tests narrow down options and suggest how your disease might progress.
After you receive a diagnosis of RA, continued blood tests will monitor the side effects of drugs used in treatment. They can also help track the progression of the disorder.
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What Are The Goals Of Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
The most important goal of treating rheumatoid arthritis is to reduce joint pain and swelling. Doing so should help maintain or improve joint function. The long-term goal of treatment is to slow or stop joint damage. Controlling joint inflammation reduces your pain and improves your quality of life.
Medication & Herbal Remedies
Its possible to treat symptoms of seronegative rheumatoid arthritis with medication. Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications are recommended to decrease inflammation, especially during flare-ups.
Seronegative patients may also take methotrexate and other disease modifying antirheumatic drugs , like sulfasalazine, when anti-inflammatory drugs are not sufficient. In addition, intra-articular steroidal injections are also used to lower inflammation in that specific joint. Many patients find a significant reduction in pain and swelling with the use of effective home herbal remedies. In some cases, the symptoms are completely put into remission especially when taken in conjunction with a customized auto-immune diet.
Common herbal recommendations include fish oil, evening primrose, turmeric, and boswellia. Each has the potential to interact with your current medications, and should be discussed with your doctor when creating your treatment plan.
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How Is Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed
Once the blood tests rule out the presence of RF and anti-CPPs in the patient, it becomes more difficult to achieve a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. However, it does happen. Just as having the presence of antibodies doesnt necessarily solidify a seropositive rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, the absence of antibodies doesnt necessarily rule out a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.
If a patient exhibits strong symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis , x-rays can be performed to further examine the symptoms. If the x-ray results indicate bone and cartilage erosion and damage, then a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis can be made.
Testing for levels of inflammation in a patients joints also helps to support a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis in seronegative patients. Here are some important criteria doctors follow when diagnosing seronegative rheumatoid arthritis:
- Negative antibody blood test results
- Symmetrical symptoms
- Polyarthritic symptoms, meaning multiple joints are affected
- Condition is inflammatory
Liver Enzyme Tests Sgot Sgpt Bilirubin Alkalin
These tests measure the amount of liver damage. Certain medications used in the treatment of arthritis can damage the liver. Aspirin, for example, has been known in rare instances to damage the liver especially in children or in people who have had previous liver damage. Other NSAIDs can cause liver inflammation . Methotrexate can cause liver damage especially in people who drink alcohol.
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Seronegative Ra: What Are The Symptoms Of Seronegative Ra
Seronegative rheumatoid arthritis is the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis without the presence of certain antibodies in the patients blood. It is one of two main types of rheumatoid arthritis diagnoses.
In most cases of rheumatoid arthritis, the patient tests positive for rheumatoid factor and/or anti-citrullinated peptides antibodies. These indicate that the patient is seropositive and that they possess the antibodies that cause an attack on joints and lead to inflammation. These patients tend to have a more severe disease course with more joint deformities, x-ray damage, disability and inflammation outside of the joints.
Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About An Rf Test
An RF test is not used to diagnose osteoarthritis. Although rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis both affect the joints, they are very different diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects people at any age, but usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 60. It affects more women than men. Symptoms may come and go and vary in severity. Osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease. It is caused by the wear and tear of joints over time and usually affects adults over the age of 65.
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Telling The Difference Between Ra And Other Conditions
RA is often confused with other conditions that can cause joint pain, including:
- Inflammatory bowel disease and Crohns disease
- Palindromic rheumatism
- Reactive arthritis resulting from bacterial infection
Many of these conditions cause overlapping symptoms, including joint pain and stiffness.
RA is also potentially confused with osteoarthritis, which causes pain and stiffness in the joints, but is caused by wear and tear, not inflammation from an immune response.
In order to distinguish RA from other autoimmune conditions, your doctor will likely perform a variety of diagnostic tests, including imaging of your joints, blood tests, and comprehensive physical exams. Your doctor may also recommend that you see a rheumatologist .
If you have persistent swelling, pain, or stiffness in your joints, its important to find a medical professional to diagnose your condition as soon as possible. Dignity Health provides comprehensive care for rheumatoid arthritis as part of our orthopedic services. Consult with a trained specialist at Dignity Health through our Find a Doctor tool.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Go Away
No, rheumatoid arthritis doesnt go away. Its a condition youll have for the rest of your life. But you may have periods where you dont notice symptoms. These times of feeling better may come and go.
That said, the damage RA causes in your joints is here to stay. If you dont see a provider for RA treatment, the disease can cause permanent damage to your cartilage and, eventually, your joints. RA can also harm organs like your lung and heart.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may feel like youre on a lifelong roller coaster of pain and fatigue. Its important to share these feelings and your symptoms with your healthcare provider. Along with X-rays and blood tests, what you say about your quality of life will help inform your treatment. Your healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and recommend the right treatment plan for your needs. Most people can manage rheumatoid arthritis and still do the activities they care about.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/18/2022.
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What Are The 7 Diagnostic Criteria For Ra
The new criteria are as follows: 1) morning stiffness in and around joints lasting at least 1 hour before maximal improvement 2) soft tissue swelling of 3 or more joint areas observed by a physician 3) swelling of the proximal interphalangeal, metacarpophalangeal, or wrist joints 4) symmetric …
What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are several risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis. These include:
- Family history: Youre more likely to develop RA if you have a close relative who also has it.
- Sex: Women and people designated female at birth are two to three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
- Smoking:Smoking increases a persons risk of rheumatoid arthritis and makes the disease worse.
- Obesity: Your chances of developing RA are higher if you have obesity.
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What Is The Difference
Rheumatoid arthritis vs. osteoarthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are both common causes of pain and stiffness in joints. But they have different causes. In osteoarthritis, inflammation and injury break down your cartilage over time. In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system attacks the lining of your joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis vs. gout
Rheumatoid arthritis and gout are both painful types of arthritis. Gout symptoms include intense pain, redness, stiffness, swelling and warmth in your big toe or other joints. In gout, uric acid crystals cause inflammation. In rheumatoid arthritis, its your immune system that causes joint damage.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An abnormal result means the test is positive, which means a higher level of RF has been detected in your blood.
- Many people with rheumatoid arthritis or Sjögren syndrome have positive RF tests.
- The higher the level, the more likely one of these conditions is present. There are also other tests that can be done to help make the diagnosis.
- Not everyone with a higher level of RF has rheumatoid arthritis or Sjögren syndrome.
Your provider should also do another blood test , to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis . Anti-CCP antibody is more specific for RA than RF. A positive test for CCP antibody means RA is probably the correct diagnosis.
People with the following diseases may also have higher levels of RF:
- Mixed cryoglobulinemia
- Mixed connective tissue disease
Higher-than-normal levels of RF may be seen in people with other medical problems. However, these higher RF levels cannot be used to diagnose these other conditions:
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