Rheumatoid Arthritis

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Swelling and Pain in the Joints

Different types of arthritis have different symptoms. In general, people with most forms of arthritis have pain and stiffness in their joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by inflammation of the joint lining. This inflammation causes warmth, redness, swelling, and pain around the joints. A person also feels sick, tired, and sometimes feverish.

Rheumatoid arthritis generally occurs in a symmetrical pattern. If one knee or hand is affected, the other one is also likely to be affected.

Diagnostic Tests

Rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages for several reasons. There is no single test for the disease. In addition, symptoms differ from person to person and can be more severe in some people than in others.

Common tests for rheumatoid arthritis include

  • The rheumatoid factor test. Rheumatoid factor is an antibody that is present eventually in the blood of most people with rheumatoid arthritis However, not all people with rheumatoid arthritis test positive for rheumatoid factor, especially early in the disease. Also, some people who do test positive never develop the disease.
  • The citrulline antibody test. This blood test detects antibodies to cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP). This test is positive in most people with rheumatoid arthritis and can even be positive years before rheumatoid arthritis symptoms develop. When used with the rheumatoid factor test, the citrulline antibody test results are very useful in confirming a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.

Other common tests for rheumatoid arthritis include

  • the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which indicates the presence of inflammation in the body
  • a test for white blood cell count and
  • a blood test for anemia.

Diagnosis Can Take Time

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be similar to those of other types of arthritis and joint conditions, and it may take some time to rule out other conditions. The full range of symptoms develops over time, and only a few symptoms may be present in the early stages.

Learn more about how rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed.