Rheumatoid Arthritis Basics
The truth about the symptoms, causes and diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
For example, thyroid disease, kidney disease, fibromyalgia, diabetes and even hepatitis C can all do a good imitation of RA. So the first step your doctor should take is to do a thorough medical history and exam. Between doctor visits, you may find it helpful to keep track of your symptoms. When talking to your doctor, make certain you describe any pain, stiffness or movement problems that you have in as much detail as possible.
You may also undergo some blood tests that can help your doctor pin down a diagnosis.
One test looks for rheumatoid factor, a type of immune protein that appears in some—though not all—people with RA, and often indicates a more aggressive form of the disease. Other tests measure for white cell count, anemia (common in people with RA) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate, an indicator of inflammation in your body. Another common measure of inflammation often taken is the C-reactive protein test.
Finally, x-rays or other imaging techniques can be helpful in determining how much, if any, bone and joint damage has been done by the disease.