Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which may vary in severity, include:1
Tender, red, warm and swollen joints2
Pain that affects joints on both sides of the body
Appearance of rheumatoid nodules, or lumps that are visible under the skin3
Decreased joint range of motion or loss of function altogether
According to the Mayo Clinic, these indicators often manifest in a patient’s wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders, although they may target the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys and blood vessels as well. Usually, RA symptoms appear then disappear during certain periods. Flare ups, a period of intense pain followed by relative remission, may also occur.4
If you or someone you know shows any of these symptoms, Once these rheumatoid arthritis symptoms of rheumatoid arthritismanifest, a check--up with a health professional or a rheumatologist is needed as soon as possible.5
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?
The diagnostic process for RA can take quite some time, as one test or exam is not enough to accurately determine an RA case, especially if the disease is still in its primary stages. As such, patients may need to undergo multiple tests. Furthermore, some RA symptoms are similar to those of other diseases, making it difficult for health professionals to accurately determine the cause of your pain. “Full” RA symptoms may also take time to manifest in the body.6,7
The first step of RA diagnosis entails the physician or rheumatologist doing a physical examination that will involve:
- Checking for indications of joint swelling, stiffness, redness and warmth
- Inspecting for presence of joint fluid/s and/or tender areas near or around the joint
- Testing joints’ range of motion by moving them back and forth
Afterward, your doctor may check your body temperature, look for swollen glands, and inspect your reflexes, eyes and throat too.8
Blood tests may also be recommended, as these can help measure the extent of inflammation and quantities of antibodies present in the patient’s body. According to Arthritis Research U.K., these blood tests can show if you’re anemic and may be used to detect rheumatoid factor (RF), a type of antibody produced by a reaction in your immune system. If the results are high, it means inflammation is present.
Some of the most common blood tests RA patients may need to undergo include the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test, C-reactive protein (CRP) test, or the anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) test. In particular, if someone gets a positive test result for the anti-CCP rest this may mean that he or she has a high risk for developing RA.
In some cases, an x-ray may be an option too, as it allows the physician or rheumatologist to view joint damage mainly caused by inflammation. These negative effects linked to RA are typically seen in x-rays of the feet, before manifesting in other joints.9 A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may also be used to check for bone damage that x-rays cannot show.10 Ultrasound scans can be used as well to inspect for severity of RA.11