Health Encyclopedia

 

Document Search by P00050



Diagnosing Arthritis and Other Rheumatic DiseasesDiagnóstico de la Artritis y Otras Enfermedades Reumáticas

Diagnosing Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases

Diagnosing arthritis and other rheumatic diseases is often difficult, as many symptoms are similar among the different diseases. To make an accurate diagnosis, a doctor may need to conduct the following:

  • Review the medical history

  • Perform a physical examination

  • Obtain laboratory tests, X-rays, and other imaging tests

What is involved in reviewing your medical history?

When reviewing your medical history, your doctor may ask the following questions:

  • Where is the pain?

  • How long have you had the pain?

  • When does the pain occur and how long does it last?

  • When did you first notice the pain?

  • What were you doing when you first noticed the pain?

  • How intense is the pain?

  • What tends to relieve the pain?

  • Have you had any illnesses or injuries that may explain the pain?

  • Is there a family history of arthritis or other rheumatic diseases?

  • What medication(s) are you currently taking?

What is involved in laboratory testing?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, the following is a list of common laboratory tests for the diagnosis of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health:

  • Antinuclear antibody. Measures blood levels of antibodies, which are often present in persons with rheumatic disease.

  • Arthrocentesis (also called joint aspiration). Obtaining a sample of synovial fluid in the joint for examination by inserting a thin, hollow needle into the joint and removing the fluid with a syringe.

  • Complement. Measures the level of complement, a group of proteins in the blood; low levels of complement in the blood are associated with lupus.

  • Complete blood count. Measures the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets present in a sample of blood; a low white blood count (leukopenia), low red blood count (anemia), or low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) are associated with certain rheumatic diseases or the medications to treat them.

  • Creatinine. A blood test to monitor for underlying kidney disease.

  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (also called ESR or sed rate). A measurement of how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube. When swelling and inflammation are present, the blood's proteins clump together and become heavier than normal. Thus, when measured, they fall and settle faster at the bottom of the test tube. Generally, the faster the blood cells fall, the more severe the inflammation.

  • Hematocrit (PCV, packed cell volume). Measures the number of red blood cells present in a sample of blood. Low levels of red blood cells (anemia) are common in people with inflammatory arthritis and rheumatic diseases.

  • Rheumatoid factor. Detects whether rheumatoid factor is present in the blood (an antibody found in the blood of most, but not all, people who have rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other rheumatic diseases).

  • Urinalysis. Laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein; to indicate kidney disease associated with several rheumatic diseases.

  • White blood cell count. Measures the number of white blood cells in the blood; increased levels of white blood cells may indicate an infection, while decreased levels may indicate certain rheumatic diseases or reaction to medication.

  • C-reactive protein. A protein that is elevated when inflammation is found in the body. Although ESR and CRP reflect similar degrees of inflammation, sometimes one will be elevated when the other is not. This test may be repeated to test your response to medication.

  • Uric acid. An indication of gout. 

What imaging techniques may be used to diagnose arthritis and other rheumatic diseases?

Imaging techniques may give your physician a clearer picture of what is happening to your joint(s). Imaging techniques may include the following:

  • X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices), of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

  • Arthroscopy. A minimally-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedure used for conditions of a joint. This procedure uses a small, lighted, optic tube (arthroscope) which is inserted into the joint through a small incision in the joint. Images of the inside of the joint are projected onto a screen; used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joint; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain and inflammation.

  • Joint ultrasound. A diagnostic procedure used occasionally to find inflammation before X-rays show damage.

  • Bone densitometry (DEXA). An imaging study to measure bone density, used primarily to detect osteoporosis.

How is pain measured?

Measurement of pain may help your doctor find a diagnosis and determine appropriate treatment. You may be asked to describe your pain on a scale of zero to 10 and/or using certain descriptive words.

 
Related Items
Wellness Library
  Action Plan for Osteoarthritis
  Seven Proven Treatments for Arthritis Pain
  How to Stick With Your Treatment Plan
  Managing Arthritis with Exercise
  Your Arthritis Health Care Team
  Exercising With Arthritis
  Arthritis and Exercise: Q and A
  Understanding Joint Pain
SCC Videos
  Shoulder Arthritis and Replacement
  Hip Arthritis and Replacement
Content Type 134
  Cervical Spondylosis
Nutritional Supplement Advisor
  Antioxidants
  Cysteine
  Glucosamine
  Molybdenum
  Nettle
HealthInk Healthy Tips
  The Toll of Arthritis
Drug Reference
  Horse Chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum
  Aspirin, ASA; Calcium Carbonate; Magnesium Oxide; Magnesium Carbonate
  Esomeprazole; Naproxen
  Betamethasone
Quizzes
  Arthritis Quiz
  Alternative Arthritis Treatment Quiz
Daily News Feed
  Rheumatoid Arthritis Increases Potential for Blood Clots, Study Suggests
  Eating Fish May Be Tied to Lower Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk: Study
  10 Percent Weight Loss May Relieve Arthritic Knee Pain
  Health Tip: Are You at Risk for Arthritis?
  Exercise May Make Life Better for Those With Arthritis
  Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis Early May Cut Damaging Effects
  Epilepsy Often Hand-in-Hand With Other Health Problems: CDC
  Always Ask a Vet Before Giving Painkillers to Pets, Expert Says
  10 Percent of U.S. Adults Physically Limited by Arthritis: CDC
  Health Tip: Exercising With Arthritis
  Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients See Big Boost in Quality of Life
  Surgeons' Group Gives Gift of New Hips, Knees to Uninsured
  Breast-Feeding Might Reduce Moms' Odds of Rheumatoid Arthritis
  Death Rate After Hip, Knee Replacements Has Dropped Sharply: Study
  Shoulder Replacement May Help for Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis
  Restless Sleep Linked to Widespread Pain in Older Adults
  New Knees, Hips May Also Help the Heart
  For Many College Athletes, the Payoff Is Lifelong Disabilities: Study
  Will You Need Knee Replacement? Maybe Your Hand Can Tell You
  Health Tip: Maintaining Healthy Joints
  Knee Pain May Not Be Helped by Glucosamine
  Pain Can Plague Women After Knee Replacement Surgery
  Knee Surgery May Put Kids at Higher Risk for Future Arthritis
  Weight-Loss Surgery Might Help Mild Knee Pain
  Otezla Approved for Psoriatic Arthritis
  Common Gout Drug Tied to Lower Risk of Early Death in Study
  Parents' Addiction May Be Linked to Arthritis in Offspring
  Drinking Milk May Slow Knee Arthritis in Women, Study Finds
  Even Routine Housework May Help Stave Off Disability
  Those With Arthritis Face Higher Risk of Falls: CDC
  Health Tip: Managing Arthritis-Related Fatigue
  Health Tip: Caring for Foot Arthritis
  Physical Therapy May Not Improve Hip Arthritis, Study Finds
  FDA Approves Generic Version of Painkiller Celebrex
  Drug Shows Promise Against Arthritis Common in People with Psoriasis
  Can 6,000 Steps a Day Keep Knee Arthritis at Bay?
  Dance Those Cares Away!
  Hairless Man Now Hairy, Thanks to Arthritis Drug
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  About Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases
  Common Types of Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases
  Home Page - Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases
  Topic Index - Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases
  Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases Statistics
  Arthritis
  Treatment for Arthritis
Newsletters
  People with Diabetes Often Have Arthritis, Too
Pediatric Diseases and Conditions
  Diagnosing Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases in Children
  Children Living with a Rheumatic Disease
  Pediatric Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases Statistics
  Treatment for Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases in Children