Your doctor will likely perform a thorough physical exam. He or she will take your temperature, look for any swollen glands, listen to your heart, check your blood pressure, and examine your joints to determine if they’re inflamed or stiff. He or she will also test your range of motion to determine whether you’ve lost motion in any of them. Your physician may also want to perform a CT scan to determine if your spinal canal is adequate and the structures surrounding it.
If you think you may have arthritis, your doctor may order a blood test to determine your condition. Blood tests may reveal antibodies to the rheumatoid factor or antinuclear antibody, and imaging tests may show damage to your joints. Other tests can be done to rule out other underlying conditions that could cause your symptoms. In addition to blood tests, your doctor may order certain imaging tests, such as an X-ray. Other tests include a skin biopsy and joint fluid analysis.
Ultrasound can also reveal symptoms of inflammation in the joints. This imaging technique can also detect abnormalities in soft tissues, such as synovium, which surrounds joints. When thickened, this tissue is known as synovitis. Ultrasounds can also reveal enthesophytes and early signs of bone erosion. A Doppler ultrasound can also show inflammation of the joints, which can help your doctor determine if they are the source of your symptoms.
Your primary care physician will diagnose your arthritis by performing a physical examination and checking for signs of inflammation. He will also check your range of motion, whether your joints are warm or red, and examine your overall health. If you’ve been suffering from pain, swelling, and joint mobility for several years, your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist to determine the cause of your symptoms. If your doctor believes you have RA, your doctor may order blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Surgery may be recommended for more severe cases. A surgeon can replace the affected joint with an artificial one to alleviate pain. Joint replacement surgery is a major procedure, most commonly done on the knee or hip. Alternatively, a patient may opt for a procedure called fusion. Fusion involves immobilizing the affected joint, which reduces pain associated with movement. The most common treatments for arthritis include physical therapy and medication. If these treatments are not enough, doctors may recommend surgery as the last option.
A complete blood count measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the body. If your blood count is low, this can be a sign of inflammatory arthritis. A creatinine test is another test that may be used to monitor the health of your kidneys. You may also undergo an x-ray to determine if there’s any damage in your joints. Although early stages of arthritis may not show visible joint damage, your doctor can still perform MRIs to diagnose arthritis.
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