Mary Alexander: Hello! I'm Mary Alexander from Home Instead Senior Care, and today I'm talking about how arthritis is diagnosed and the kinds of medical specialists who can help.
Arthritis refers to more than 100 different diseases that cause pain, swelling, and limited movement in joints and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. The key to successful treatments is early diagnosis and the institution of an appropriate treatment plan.
If you have swelling or stiffness in your joints that lasts more than two weeks, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. If possible, you should keep a symptom diary for several weeks before your appointment. Doing so can help you keep track of pertinent facts about your condition and also help you track changes that may occur.
Physicians diagnose arthritis based on the overall pattern of symptoms, medical history, physical exam, imaging studies such as a Radiograph or X-ray, MRI, and bone scans and laboratory tests.
Let's talk about some of the most common tests. One blood test looks for the Rheumatoid Factor. This is an antibody which is present in about 70-80% of adults who have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Your doctor will also likely order a Sedimentation Rate or Sed-Rate. This is an indicator of the presence of nonspecific inflammation in your body. A step up from the Sed-Rate is a C-Reactive Protein Test or CRP.
The Anti-CCP is another blood test which has become more commonly used and is ordered if Rheumatoid Arthritis is suspected. Your doctor may also order X-rays of your bones and joints or may also require an MRI, which can give more precise information about bones and joints as well as soft tissues.
Once the tests are complete, your primary care practitioner may refer you to a specialist. Rheumatologists are arthritis specialists. They are medical physicians who have finished a Residency in Internal Medicine and a Fellowship in Rheumatology. Physiatrists are physicians who have specialized in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. And Orthopedic surgeons are the professionals who perform surgical procedures such as joint replacement.
The Arthritis Foundation, the only not-for-profit organization that supports to more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, offers information and tools on their website, arthritis.
You can also learn more by checking out other videos on arthritis including arthritis treatments.