April 11, 2008

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis – Lab Tests for Early & Correct Detection

Posted in Category : Bone, Joint & Muscles Disorders

Early and correct diagnosis of any disease is very important for appropriate treatment. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disorder of the joints that results in pain, stiffness, tenderness and swelling of the joints. It involves the joints of several body parts and some other organs. It may result in limitation in mobility of the joints and makes the daily activities difficult. Hence, rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis is the most essential step to start the treatment immediately.

Rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis depends on your symptoms and physical examination. It will help you determine whether you have rheumatoid arthritis or other type of arthritis. The doctor asks few questions about the family history, symptoms, about your lifestyle and habits. After getting this information, the doctor may suggest certain laboratory tests to confirm diagnosis.

There are some laboratory tests that are recommended for rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis such as complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, determination of electrolyte levels, rheumatoid factor etc. Complete blood count determines the number of each type of blood cells. Anemia or other irregularities may indicate the rheumatoid arthritis.

C-reactive proteins and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) are the markers of inflammation. Their levels are elevated in rheumatoid arthritis and may indicate the extent of disease activity. Determination of serum protein levels and serum electrolyte levels such as potassium, magnesium and calcium are helpful for the diagnosis. Liver and kidney function tests are also recommended.

There are some immunologic tests that indicate this disease. Determination of levels of antinuclear antibodies (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF) and other antibodies (anti-CCP, anti-RA33) can be helpful in diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Positive RF results are found in the active periods of the disease. Positive ANA test is an indicative of abnormally active immune system. In the first few months of onset of disease, these immunologic tests may result as negative.

The analysis of synovial fluid is very important for the diagnosis as it can give idea about the abnormal findings in this disease. Presence of white blood cells in the synovial fluid indicates the inflammation.

There are some other tests for the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis including the imaging tests like x-rays, MRI scans, ultrasound, bone scanning, densitometry and arthroscopy.