Like most things in diagnosing the disease, the signs and symptoms in the affected joint can be one of helpful clues to diagnose the existence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the diagnosis is not only based on the symptoms, some laboratory tests such as blood test and x-rays are required.
Blood test is a common laboratory procedure to help diagnose a number of different health conditions, including for RA. As the name suggests, it is a procedure to take a sample of blood for testing.
In general, the following are common functions of blood test:
- To evaluate the general state of your health.
- To help analyze the function of certain organ, especially such as kidneys and liver function.
- To help diagnose a viral or bacterial infection.
- To help screen specific genetic problem, such as the presence of spinal muscular atrophy or cystic fibrosis.
To take the sample of blood, the arm is a common site to use because it is easily uncovered – especially the inside of wrist or elbow, the spots of where the blood vessels (veins) are closer to the surface.
To get an accurate result, it’s better to avoid eating or drinking anything (fasting) before taking the test. If you are taking a medicine, tell your doctor! Certain medicines may affect the result of the test.
Since the test only requires a small amount of blood, you should not experience any significant after-effects. But a few people may feel mild dizzy, faint, or other side effects during & after the test.
A very small bruised on the skin where the needle was inserted usually occurs, this is typically harmless. But in a few cases, a larger area of bruising may happen, too – this is usually caused by the blood vessel damage due to the needle or poor pressure at the site of the jab.
After the sample of blood has been taken, it then will be sent to a laboratory for closely examination. The way of examination is dependent on what is being checked.
What does happen in blood test for RA? A special blood test can help identify the presence of rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-CCP antibodies.
Anti-CCP stands for the Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide. The presence of both anti-CCP antibodies and RF in the blood may signal the abnormal inflammation related to the abnormality of immune system.
But even though your blood test shows positive for RF and anti-CCP antibodies, this doesn’t mean you definitely have RA! In other words, again blood test is not the single test to make the diagnosis.
A special blood test is also commonly used to look for CReactibe protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), these can help evaluate the existence of an inflammatory process in the body.
The following are other major checklists you need to remember if you take blood test for RA:
- Some patients with RA have normal or negative test result, particularly those with early on the disease.
- If you have positive test result, this doesn’t mean you definitely have the disease. Your doctor usually ask you to take other tests to make a clearly diagnosis.
In addition, it’s important to get the accurate diagnosis as early as possible. RA at early stage can be treated and controlled better. See also why initial treatment for RA is so important for the prognosis and outlook of the disease in here!
We know well that x-rays test is a kind of imaging test. As the name suggests, it uses the radiation of x-ray beams to help make a detailed picture of structures inside the body, especially for structures of bones.
During test, the x-rays radiation passes through the body. The radiation is then absorbed in different intensity levels, depending on the density of each material it passes through.
Bones are the strongest material to absorb the radiation, that’s why they appear white in color with x-rays. Muscles and fats look shades of gray, and black for air (for instance, air in the lungs will look black in x-rays).
If necessary, doctor may need to introduce a contrast medium, like barium or iodine, into the body in order to enhance the quality of the image (providing greater detail on the pictures).
However, it is not used for all kinds of health conditions. In some cases, the use of x-rays is not enough to provide a detailed picture.
How about x-rays test for RA? Does it work effectively?