Tests for Arthritis
Once you believe you may have arthritis or have a joint problem that hasn’t resolved in a week or two, you may find yourself at the doctor’s office being evaluated for the one of over 100 different types of arthritis. Doctors have various tests for arthritis that use different modalities such as blood tests, physical examination and imaging.
Doctors use tests for arthritis procedures to get an accurate diagnosis of the type of arthritis you have, to rule out other explanations for your symptoms, to find out how active the arthritis is, to work out the best treatment plan and to monitor your current drug therapy.
There are blood tests that are more routine than others. These tests for arthritis may take several days or even weeks once the blood is drawn. Your doctor can usually accurately tell you when the results will be completed. A complete blood count or full blood count will show if you are anemic, your white blood cell count and platelets. People with arthritis have abnormalities in these three.
An Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) is a simple test that measures how quickly the red blood cells settle when they are left to stand in a tube. The results reflect how much inflammation your arthritis has caused throughout your body.
A biochemical profile can show the function of your liver and kidneys. Rheumatoid Factor (RF) is another of the tests for arthritis It is an antibody that is present in some people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA)– it can also be found in people without arthritis and up to 1/3 of people with RA don’t have the factor. The test is useful only in consideration with other findings.
Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA) are sometimes found in the blood of people with certain types of arthritis. The test for arthritis ANA is often found in people with connective tissue diseases Urate is a waste product from the normal breakdown of protein. It is excreted in the urine. If the level builds up it forms crystals and can deposit in the hands and feet. The following inflammation is called gout, also in the family of arthritis.
X-rays are used to get a picture of your bones and joints but don’t always give an accurate view. An arthrography is an imaging test which uses dye injected into the joint. Computerized tomography (CT) uses x-rays which record ‘slices’ of the body. It gives detailed picture of the bone but also shows some other tissue not normally seen on x-ray.
Isotope bone scan is an imaging test where a chemical is injected into the blood and taken up by the bones. X-rays are performed that more fully outline the bone and joint structures. The dose of radiation is very small and removed from the body through the urine. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses high-frequency radio waves in a strong magnetic field. They are used to find early or minor changes in the soft tissue. Ultrasound is a scan using high-frequency sound waves to build a picture – useful to see fluid collected around the joints and tendons.
Doctors may also chose to aspirate or take out some synovial fluid from the joint space. Analysis is done to evaluate the fluid and remove excess that will improve your pain. The fluid is removed through the joint using a needle aspiration under sterile condition.
Arthroscopy is a test that uses a small telescope to look inside the joint. The examination can help with diagnosis and treatment. This is usually done under surgical conditions. Doctors are able to remove bits of torn cartilage or repair tears while at the same time visualizing the damage done to the joints.
Nerve conduction studies are done to assess whether the nerves and muscles are functioning correctly. Doctors may also want to look at the function of the heart and lungs using electrocardiogram (ECG) or pulmonary function tests (PFT’s) since several common forms of arthritis can also affect a patients heart and lungs.
Doctors have many tests for arthritis at their disposal to fully evaluate, diagnose and appropriate treat your arthritic condition. Many arthritis conditions do best when they are diagnosed and treatment is begun early. With the assistance of these tests for arthritis doctors are able to perform these functions accurately.