Arthritis diagnosis

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Diagnosing arthritis can be difficult because symptoms and signs are common to many different diseases. When arthritis is suspected, the physician will obtain a detailed medical history from the patient and do a physical examination.

It is important for patients to give a complete medical history. Examples of questions that the physician might ask are:

• Is the pain in one or more joints?
• When does the pain occur?
• How long does the pain last?
• When did you first notice the pain?
• What were you doing when you noticed the pain?
• Does activity make the pain better or worse?
• Is there a family history of arthritis?
• Are you on any medications for the pain?

Also, asking about other seemingly unrelated symptoms such as fever, sweats, hair loss, rash, or weight loss, can also provide important clues to diagnosis.

Let’s look at two of the more common types of arthritis:

Osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative type of arthritis causes:

• Stiffness, pain and swelling in the affected joint
• A "grating" noise when walking or running
• Reduced and limited range of motion
• Weakness and deformity of the affected joint

Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is the most common inflammatory form of arthritis:

• Fatigue
• Pain, swelling, tenderness, heat or redness at the affected joints (commonly hands and/or feet)
• Deformities of fingers, hands and/or feet
• Reduced range of motion
• Morning stiffness

Blood tests are often ordered. Blood tests will evaluate the patient for some of the more common causes of aches and pains. Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, gout, and thyroid disease are particularly important to rule out. Examples are rheumatoid factor, anti-CCP, ANA, TSH, and so on.

The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP) are helpful in detecting inflammation.

Muscle enzyme elevations point toward muscle problems as a cause of aches and pains.

The presence of anemia or the presence of abnormalities in liver or kidney function may not only provide clues to diagnosis but also direct therapy since medicines used to treat arthritis may adversely affect liver or kidney function.

Imaging tests such as x-rays may also be used in the diagnosis of OA or RA. More recently, magnetic resonance imaging, (MRI) has been used to help diagnoses and stage disease. Another useful diagnostic test is ultrasound.

The physician may need to see the patient for follow-up evaluation to make an accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms vary from person to person and also from time point to time point.

Get more information about arthritis diagnosis as well as...

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