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What is Involved in a Rheumatoid Arthritis Test?

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  • Written By: Marco Sumayao
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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A rheumatoid arthritis test involves several different types of examination. First, an interview is conducted to identify the patient's symptoms and risk factors based on his medical history. A physical examination follows, in which the doctor looks for signs that show the areas affected, as well as the degree to which the patient suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Blood tests are then performed to determine the levels of substances that lead to rheumatoid arthritis. Medical imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), might also be included among the examinations.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes swelling in the body's joints, resulting in pain and discomfort. The swelling is caused by the patient's own immune system, as antibodies in the blood mistakenly identify the lining of the joints as harmful elements and attack. In addition to the joint pain, cases of rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to feelings of fatigue and fever.

The first step of a rheumatoid arthritis test is an opening interview, in which the patient identifies the various symptoms he experiences. The patient's medical history is also taken, allowing doctors to assess the risk factors involved in both rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and treatment. If a family member has the disorder, for example, the patient has a greater predisposition to develop it himself.

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A physical examination of the patient comes next. This rheumatoid arthritis test allows doctors to see what areas of the body are affected, the most common of which are the small joints in the feet and hands. The physical examination also allows doctors to spot telltale signs of the problem's severity. Swelling, redness, and range of motion all give ideas of how much damage is being done by rheumatoid arthritis.

The brunt of a rheumatoid arthritis test comes in the blood laboratory work. Several blood samples are screened for a variety of identifying substances. High levels of the substances, which include rheumatoid arthritis factor, c-reactive protein, and antinuclear antibodies, all suggest the presence and degree of rheumatoid arthritis. The blood can also undergo another rheumatoid arthritis test for its erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which allows doctors to detect the presence of an inflammation.

If other tests provide insufficient data, doctors can also recommend medical imaging tests. An MRI or x-ray scan can reveal abnormalities not detected by the other tests. This type of rheumatoid arthritis test can be used to track the progress of treatment, as well as assist in rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.

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