Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that mistakenly attacks the healthy cells in your body. This can cause inflammation and painful swelling in the affected joints.
How is it diagnosed?
Rheumatoid arthritis can be very difficult to diagnose. This is because it shares symptoms with many other conditions. There is also no definitive test for the condition, making it even more difficult to diagnose and treat.
If you suspect you are suffering from the symptoms of RA, it’s best to contact a GP as soon as possible as early diagnosis is essential for the best treatment outcome. Diagnosis usually entails:
A physical exam – seeing your GP will allow them to examine you and assess how easily your joints move.
Blood tests – although no blood test can definitively prove you have the condition, several tests can show indications of RA.
Rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP antibodies – this will show how many of these are present in the immune system.
Joint scans – this can check for joint inflammation.
Why early diagnosis is important
Early diagnosis is crucial when it comes to RA because it reduces the risk of joint damage and can help to limit the impact of the condition on the rest of your body. Without early diagnosis, RA will worsen, leading to other complications like:
Reduced movement due to stiff joints
Comorbid conditions – such as cardiovascular disease
A reduced life expectancy
Large economic loss – due to the inability to work
Lower quality of life – due to both the physical and mental strain of the condition
How can RA be treated?
Rheumatoid arthritis is incurable, so the treatments available are designed to manage the symptoms and slow its progression. More specifically, treatment plans are designed to reduce inflammation in the joints, relieve pain and prevent or slow down joint damage, enabling the patient to be as active as possible.
Some of the treatments available are:
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs
Medicine: painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids
Optional therapies – acupuncture etc.
With early diagnosis, your doctor can find the most appropriate treatment plan for you, taking into account the severity of your condition. You’ll also find your symptoms are less severe and the likelihood of long-term damage is reduced.
For more information about rheumatoid arthritis, contact us at our Harley Street clinic today!