How Do You Test for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?


Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disorder that affects the joints. Other body systems like the skin, lungs, heart, blood vessels, and eyes also suffer in severe cases.

The autoimmune disorder happens when the immune system attacks the body tissue, thinking it is attacking an intruder.

Rheumatoid arthritis deals with the lining of the joints. It causes a painful swelling, which could eventually result in joint deformity and corrosion of the bone.

The inflammation with RA triggers damage to other body parts. In severe cases, RA can cause physical disabilities and disfigurement. Rheumatoid arthritis, at its early stage, can mimic symptoms of other conditions because the test for RA takes time to confirm.

What Happens in a Joint affected by RA?

People who have Rheumatoid arthritis will have inflammation in their joints. Note that normal inflammation is primal to healthy living. It is one of the body’s defense mechanisms to protect any of its parts attacked via a foreign body like virus or other infection. This explains why the body part with any cut will swell up and might change in color.

With Rheumatoid arthritis, however, the inflammation is uncalled for, which causes issues. Even if the inflammation goes down, the synovium and its capsule will be stretched. This affects the capacity of the capsule to hold the joint in a normal position. The joint will then be unstable and could move into an awkward position.

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis?

In the early stages, the condition might affect small joints like the fingers and toes. As it progress, other joints suffer as well.

An interesting fact about RA’s symptoms is that it affects symmetrical joints, according to the Center for Disease Control.  

Sadly, RA worsens over time and comes with a high risk of joint damage, disfigurement, or other joint disability. You need to know your symptoms as your doctor might need this when diagnosing.

Other symptoms are

  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Joint stiffness
  • Warmth and redness of the joint
  • Joint stiffness after waking up or sitting for long
  • Fever or high temperature
  • Sweating 
  • Other effects of inflammation like dry eyes and chest pain

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Risk Factors

Sadly, research has not been able to explain why the immune system turns on the body. However, there are some factors linked to Rheumatoid arthritis. 

There are some people with genetic factors that make them predisposed to Rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, there is a theory that some bacteria or virus triggers Rheumatoid arthritis.

Other factors that increase your risk of developing Rheumatoid arthritis are discussed below. Hence, if you are wondering what causes arthritis, this section will answer your question, 

  • Sex: the condition is prevalent in women than in men.
  • Age: While Rheumatoid arthritis can develop at any age, it commonly starts around the middle age
  • Genetics: you have a high chance of developing Rheumatoid arthritis if it runs in the family.
  • Smoking: In addition to increasing the tendency to develop the condition, smoking makes the disease severe in victims. 
  • Environmental Exposures: there are also indications that some elements like asbestos and silica also increases the risk of the disease
  • Obesity: women with excess weight around 55 and above are also at a higher risk of developing the disease.
  • Diet: There is a report that consuming red meat in excess with little Vitamin C increases your risk o developing arthritis. 

Tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis

X-Rays

This reveals the images of the affected body parts. The images show the severity of the tendons’ damage, cartilage, and bone to the doctor.

X-rays apply to advanced Rheumatoid arthritis. It might not detect soft tissue inflammation. X-rays also help monitor the progression of the condition. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI stands out from X-rays as it can take pictures of soft body tissues. It uses a magnetic field for this.

With such images, doctors can detect inflammation of the synovium. Synovium is the membrane lining of the joint that the immune system attacks. 

The doctors need these images before they can administer rheumatoid arthritis treatment for victims. 

Blood Tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis 

A series of blood tests can detect changes in the immune system or antibodies that might attack the body. Other tests examine the level of inflammation.

No single test will detect rheumatoid arthritis, so your doctor will likely recommend multiple tests.  You can order most of the RH Blood Panels online, and through an easy lab locator find an RH blood testing facility near you.  

Rheumatoid Arthritis Factor Blood Test

Some people with rheumatoid arthritis could have a high level of rheumatoid factor (RF). RF is one of the products of your immune system. It is a protein that can turn on healthy body tissues. 

An excessive level of RF signifies high symptoms and drastic progression. You, however, need more tests to confirm RA. This is because some people could test negative for RF and have arthritis while others without RA could test positive for RF.  

Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA)

Generally, ANA tests point to an autoimmune condition in your body.  

You will likely test positive for the ANA test if your body is producing antibodies. Should the antibody be in excess, it could mean that the immune system is attacking the body.

Since RA detects autoimmune disorder, many RA victims will test positive for ANA. A positive ANA test doesn’t necessarily mean you have RA. 

Erythrocyte Sedimentation rate (sed rate)

The Sed rate test also helps check for inflammation in the body. The Sed rate is simply how fast the red blood cell clumps and migrates to the test tube’s bottom.  

References

  1. Versus Arthritis (2018). Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved from https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/
  2. Brazier, Y. (2018). What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Retrieved fromhttps://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323361
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff, (2019) Rheumatoid Arthritis. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353653
  4. WebMD (2019). Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Diagnosis. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/diagnosing-ra
  5. Nall, R. (2019). Blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis: What to know. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323473

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