How does rheumatoid arthritis get diagnosed?
It can take time to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The symptoms of RA can appear similar to other conditions, such as lupus and other connective tissue diseases.
You may feel better when you have less severe RA symptoms.
Based on your medical history, laboratory confirmation, and initial physical findings, your doctor may recommend medication. However, it is important to keep your doctor informed of any changes in your health.
Your symptoms, medical history, as well as risk factors, will be discussed with your doctor. Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical exam, which includes checking your joints for any swelling, tenderness, or range of motion. They may also order blood tests.
To determine if you have RA, your doctor will perform blood tests, Xrays, or ultrasound. Blood tests are used to determine if there is high inflammation or antibodies in the blood. A negative blood test could indicate:
- To confirm inflammation, there is an increase in the erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- Anti-CCP antibodies are found in more than 75% of people with RA.
- RA antibody, rheumatoid factors (found in 80 per cent of patients with RA).
- Typically, a doctor will not diagnose RA until you have had symptoms for at least three months.
Tests for rheumatoid arthritis in the blood
RA is an autoimmune disorder. Many blood tests can detect antibodies or immune system changes that could attack joints and other organs. You can also measure inflammation by using other tests.
Your doctor will take a small amount of blood from you to perform blood tests. The lab will then test the sample. Your doctor may order several tests to confirm RA.
Test for Rheumatoid Factor
Many people suffering from RA have high levels RF (rheumatoid factors) antibodies. Your body produces RF protein. It can also attack healthy tissue.
RF tests cannot be used alone to diagnose RA. RF is not specific for RA. People with RA might test negative for RF. Other conditions such as Sjogren’s and hepatitis C may make people more susceptible to RF.
Anti-CCP antibody test for anti-anticipulinated protein
- Anti-CCP tests, also known by ACPA, are used to test for antibodies that may be associated with RA.
- According to a 2015 research review, this test could identify individuals who are more susceptible to severe and irreversible damage from RA.
- You may have RA if you are positive for anti-CCP antibodies. Positive tests indicate that RA will likely progress faster.
- Anti-CCP testing is almost impossible for people without RA. People with RA might test negative for anti–CCP.
- Your doctor will review this test result together with any other clinical findings to confirm RA.
Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test
ANA tests can be used to determine if you have an autoimmune disorder. If your body produces antibodies that attack normal cells, a positive ANA test could indicate that you are producing them. This antibody may indicate that your immune system has attacked itself.