How Is RA Diagnosed?
It starts with a conversation with your doctor and will likely lead to some blood tests.
Rheumatologist Susan M. Goodman, M.D., attending physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City explains the (many) steps you'll go through to confirm a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be diagnosed first by a history, an exam and then by lab tests to confirm it. The history will typically reveal that the patient has had aches and pains and morning stiffness and fatigue, and that's usually persisted for at least six weeks. The exam will reveal tenderness or swelling of the joints, and then the labs that are confirmatory can be evidence of inflammation in the system, like an elevated sedimentation rate or c-reactive protein, as well as the more specific test for rheumatoid factor, and another antibody, the cyclic citrullinated peptide, that is very specific for RA. However, maybe 30% of patients have normal labs at the time they seek attention for the first time for rheumatoid arthritis.