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Exams and Tests
The first step in the diagnosis of arthritis is a meeting between the doctor and the patient. The doctor will review the history of symptoms, examine the joints for inflammation and deformity, as well as ask questions about or examine other parts of the body for inflammation or signs of diseases that can affect other body areas. Furthermore, certain blood, urine, joint fluid, and/or x-ray tests might be ordered. The diagnosis will be based on the pattern of symptoms, the distribution of the inflamed joints, and any blood test and x-ray findings. Several visits may be necessary before the doctor can be certain of the diagnosis.
Earlier and accurate diagnosis can help to prevent irreversible damage and disability. Properly guided programs of exercise and rest, medications, physical therapy, and surgery options can idealize long-term outcomes for arthritis patients.
An opinion regarding the cause or the type of the arthritis can usually be adequately obtained by consulting a general family doctor. It is often unnecessary to see an arthritis specialist (rheumatologist) for this purpose. However, if the diagnosis or treatment plan is unclear, a rheumatologist might be consulted. A rheumatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the nonsurgical treatment of rheumatic illnesses, especially arthritis. Rheumatologists have special interests in unexplained rash, fever, arthritis, anemia, weakness, weight loss, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, autoimmune disease, and anorexia. They often serve as consultants, acting like medical detectives at the request of other doctors. Rheumatologists have particular skills in the evaluation of the over 100 forms of arthritis and have special interest in rheumatoid arthritis, spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, antiphospholipid syndrome, Still's disease, dermatomyositis, Sjogren's syndrome, vasculitis, scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, sarcoidosis, Lyme disease, osteomyelitis, osteoarthritis, back pain, gout, pseudogout, relapsing polychondritis, Henoch-Schonlein purpura, serum sickness, reactive arthritis, Kawasaki disease, fibromyalgia, erythromelalgia, Raynaud's disease, growing pains, iritis, osteoporosis, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and others.
When specific organs are affected by disease aside from the joints associated with the arthritis, other medical specialists might be consulted.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2014
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