We need to first understand what rheumatoid arthritis is all about. This is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints of a person. People affected with rheumatoid arthritis complain of pain, stiffness, inflammation, and erosion in the joints. They also find that a number of joints are usually affected at the same time. One would also find the presence of some other symptoms such as fever and fatigue.
It is only through testing one can come to the conclusion that what you are suffering from is rheumatoid arthritis as opposed to some other form of arthritis. You can also figure out how severely you are affected by the problem. Through testing you can also keep track of the condition, figure out what the possible complications could be, check how responsive you are to the treatment, and also keep an eye on the potential side effects that could result due to some treatment you are following.
Rheumatoid arthritis cannot be diagnosed with one single test, but clinical evaluations can help in the diagnosis. This could be a laboratory test and also a non-laboratory test.
The laboratory tests include the Rheumatoid factor test which is useful to diagnose Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is found that those who suffer from RA have considerable concentrations of this factor. It is however present in some healthy persons as well. Another test is the Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) which indicates that there is inflammation in the body. Doctors also recommend the C-reactive protein test that also shows that there is inflammation. This test not only helps in the diagnosis of RA but also in the evaluation and monitoring of the condition.
A complete blood test is used in the evaluation of the red and white blood cells as well as the hemoglobin. The Comprehensive Metabolic Panel is used in the evaluation and monitoring of the patient's kidney as well as liver function.
The non-laboratory tests use certain criteria such as morning stiffness, arthritis in the joints, rheumatoid nodules, and radiographic changes in diagnosing RA. If you have these criteria for a couple of weeks it is considered to be RA. Joint damages are monitored with the help of X-rays. MRI and ultrasound are used to help detect the changes that take place in the joints earlier in the disease.
RA cannot be cured. However, the disease can slow down with treatment. We can aim at decreasing the pain and inflammation and reduce complications. Every person will react differently to the treatment and it is best that the patient work hand in hand with their rheumatologist for best results.
Submitted by M H on April 14, 2010 at 01:38