Rheumatoid Arthritis (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
What Does RA Feel Like?
The usual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are stiff and painful joints, muscle pain, and fatigue. The experience of rheumatoid arthritis is different for each person. Some people have more severe pain than others. Most people with rheumatoid arthritis feel very stiff and achy in their joints, and frequently in their entire bodies, when they wake up in the morning. Joints may be swollen, and fatigue is very common. It is frequently difficult to perform daily activities that require use of the hands, such as opening a door or tying one's shoes. Since fatigue is a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, it is important for people with rheumatoid arthritis to rest when necessary and get a good night's sleep. Systemic inflammation is very draining for the body.
When Should People Seek Medical Care for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Joint pain or stiffness or swelling around a joint that lasts more than two weeks warrants a visit to a health-care professional.
Someone who experiences symptoms that he or she thinks may be caused by arthritis should talk to a doctor. A doctor can explain the treatment options.
How Do Health-Care Professionals Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis?
On hearing someone's history of symptoms, a health-care professional will suspect that he or she has rheumatoid arthritis or another type of arthritis or rheumatic disease. The diagnosis doesn't end there though. It is very important to know exactly which type of arthritis a patient has because the treatment and outlook for each type can be different.
A health-care professional will conduct a thorough interview and physical examination to try to pinpoint the cause of the symptoms. The physician will ask about symptoms, about other medical problems now and in the past, about family medical problems, about current medications, and about habits and lifestyle.
There is no single test to confirm the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. A health-care professional will use the results of the interview and physical examination, lab tests including blood tests, and imaging studies such as X-rays to determine whether or not someone has rheumatoid arthritis. At any time in the process of making the diagnosis or treating the condition, a primary-care physician may refer a patient to a rheumatologist (a specialist in diagnosing and treating rheumatoid arthritis).
Lab tests: A health-care professional may suggest any of the following tests:
Immunologic tests: Blood levels of rheumatoid factor (RF), antinuclear antibodies (ANA), and possibly other tests including CCP antibodies (Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide or anti-citrulline antibodies) and 14.3.3 eta protein levels.
Synovial fluid analysis: The tissue that lines the joint (synovium) produces fluid that normally helps to lubricate and protect joints. This fluid may be abnormal in quality and excessive quantity from rheumatoid arthritis. It may reveal characteristic signs of inflammation that point to rheumatoid arthritis, such as an elevated number of white blood cells. A sample of this fluid is withdrawn from a joint (usually the knee) through a needle in a procedure called arthrocentesis, or joint aspiration. The fluid is examined and analyzed for signs of inflammation.
Imaging studies: X-rays and sometimes other imaging studies often are used to detect damage to the joints.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/17/2017
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