Arthritis Tests and Diagnosis

Arthritis is a joint condition that can be quite painful and hard to address.  These facts make the proper diagnosis of this disorder imperative to come up with a proper course of treatment to address the pain and inflammation it causes. Fortunately, there are many treatment choices one can avail of for all types of arthritis.

When you come in for a consultation with an arthritis specialist, the specialist may perform certain diagnostic tests on you which may involve x-rays and blood tests among others. These tests can be done on a health center or in a hospital.

X-ray – An X-ray machine is a perfect diagnostic tool when it comes to examining damage to the bones. Arthritis that severely affects the bones is termed osteoarthritis. This is a condition that is the result of the wear and tear on the body and is more likely found in elderly people. X-ray may not be as effective when it comes to examining rheumatoid arthritis. For RA, blood tests are done mainly to monitor iron deficiency anemia or to see what areas of the body are inflamed. Sometimes the specialist may also require extra tests like an MRI scan to better scan the body for symptoms of RA

After diagnosing arthritis, the specialist may refer the patient to occupational therapists, counselors or social workers to help the patient to transition to a healthier lifestyle.

Your physical exam will check your joints for any warmth, redness and swelling of the joints.  The range of motion of your joints will be tested. If the specialist suspects that you have arthritis, he may recommend you take some more tests.   Depending on the kind of arthritis suspected, the specialist may recommend the following tests:

Ultrasound – This diagnostic tool applies high-frequency sound waves to produce an image of fluid containing structures called bursae, cartilage and soft tissues. Ultrasound is also utilized to place the needles properly for injections and joint aspirations.

Laboratory tests – Body fluids such as joint blood, urine and blood fluids are analysed to determine whether you have arthritis or not. The specialist will clean and topically anesthesize the area where a sample of your joint fluid will be taken. A needle is inserted into the skin onto the joint space to collect joint fluid samples.

Computerized tomography – This test is commonly called a CT scan. CT scans are a bunch of x-ray photographs when combined create composite images of internal structures.  CT scans can produce images of soft tissues and bones.

MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging – Uses both magnetic fields and radio waves to produce cross-sectional pictures of ligaments, tendons and cartilage.

Arthroscopy – An arthroscope is used to send images of your joints to a screen display.