Does RA Show Up in Blood Test and X-rays?

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The following are common problems related to arthritis that you can see from x-rays:

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  1. The alignment of joint. Alignment problem in the joint may trigger or worsen arthritis-related changes.
  2. The space between two bones in the joint, naturally covered by cartilage. Narrowing of this space can be a sign of arthritis (mostly osteoarthritis, the most common arthritis form).
  3. Bone spurs and fractures, these can be a sign of poorly controlled arthritis.

In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the soft lining tissue surrounding the joint called synovium is getting inflamed. And this inflammation is triggered by the abnormality of immune system. Over time the inflamed synovium affects other parts of the joint, causing damage to cartilage, tendons, or even bones.

In general, it’s more difficult to show up RA at early stage on x-rays. But if the disease has progressed and caused damage to the joint, it is usually easier to detect.

The appearance of joint damage on x-rays is not the end. Your doctor needs to observe the kind of joint damage and the cause of the problem. And arthritis itself has many types. So, other tests (such as blood test) are required.

Again, the diagnosis of RA often involves a combination of different tests. After blood test, x-rays may be recommended to help make the diagnosis. It may also be used to track the progression of the disease and how far the disease has caused damage to the joint.

If necessary, doctor may need to use other imaging tests to get a greater detail on the image. These include CT-scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. In general, both CT-scan and MRI work better than traditional x-rays test.

CT-scan is a noninvasive imaging test that combines sophisticated computer system and x-rays to make more clearly images (multiple images) or even 3-dimensional view of the object. And MRI, it is also integrated with computer system, and uses a strong magnet.

Citations /references:

  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20014868
  2. http://www.arthritistoday.org/where-it-hurts/knee-pain/diagnosis/knee-mri.php

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