Tests to Identify Arthritis

Tests to Identify ArthritisThere are over 100 different types of arthritis and arthritic conditions. Identifying or diagnosing the inflammation or swelling of the joints can be a complex process or any physician. Doctors often use a combination of several different types of tests to correctly identify the type and prescribe an accurate treatment program.

The goal of treatment for most arthritic conditions involve decreasing the pain, inflammation and swelling as well as improving the comfort level of the patient. Doctors will include a comprehensive physical exam and history of the patient and the patient’s family as well is including certain blood tests and imaging studies.

Imaging studies which are frequently used are x-rays that accurately see the bones and joints. Although x-rays are reliable way of seeing the structure they are not accurate in identifying the type of arthritis. Most people over the age of 65 will have changes in their joints without having the accompanying joint pain, swelling and inflammation of arthritis.

In fact the cartilage and joint damage seen on x-ray is more often severe than the patients rating of pain and disability. However, the doctor will use x-rays along with other findings and tests to identify the type of arthritic condition or to modify a treatment program.

Arthrography is a test in which dye is directed into the joints during a special x-ray procedure. This procedure is done in the radiology department and usually by a radiologist. The results will always be sent directly to the doctor and not given to the patient at the time the procedure.

Computerized Tomography (CAT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are tests that physicians use to assist in the identification of joint degeneration or the involvement of soft tissue or other organ systems. Some arthritic conditions affects only joints while others have more systemic effect on the organ systems and soft tissues. These particular tests help the doctor to differentiate.

The CT scan takes pictures and slices of the body and are then fed back to a computer for interpretation. These x-ray pictures show bone but also show muscle and organ systems as well. The MRI uses radio waves and magnetic fields. These waves react with the water in the body and send images back to a computer. Adults are approximately 60% water content so the MRI can be fairly accurate over the entire body. This particular test is best for viewing soft tissue and organ system changes as opposed to bony masses.

And arthrocentesis, done in the doctors office, will help the physician to evaluate the fluid that is normally found in the joints. The synovial fluid and analysis is done in the laboratory and can help the physician determine the type of arthritic changes which are occurring in the body. In an inflammatory response the fluid will increase in amounts and will becomes thicker that causes the swelling of the joints and damage.

Isotope bone scans are tests done at the radiology department of the hospital. A small dose of radioactive isotope is injected into the bloodstream which is then taken up by the bones. Using a special camera radiologist can see the bones and more accurately evaluate the amount and type of inflammation in the joints.

One diagnosis that comes under the heading of arthritis is gout. In this condition the fluid in the joints will also contain urate crystals which is a conclusive test for gout. Because there is an increase of the synovial fluid that causes pain and swelling, the removal of the fluid for the test will also help decrease pain and improve mobility for a short period of time.

If the disease has progressed the physician may recommend and arthroscopy, a small surgical procedure in which an incision is made over the joints. This particular procedure is done in the hospital under local anesthesia. A small tube and camera are inserted into the joints of the doctor can view the damage and sometimes repair or remove cartilage.

Arthritic conditions which are systemic will also cause soft tissue and organ damage. One organ that is particularly at risk are the lungs. Physicians may order Pulmonary Function Tests to assess any damage that may have already been done as well is help identify the type of arthritis and modify treatment programs.

Another organ that can be affected is the heart muscle. An electrocardiogram is used to assess any damage to the muscles as well is help to identify problems and change treatment protocols which may have already been started.

While there are no conclusive test for arthritis, physicians use a combination to give an accurate clinical picture and make a diagnoses. Without a correct diagnosis any treatment plan would not help to stop the progression of the disease, less and pain and swelling and disability but would rather cause further problems. To identify arthritis the doctor needs a comprehensive physical exam, family history, testing and the core operation of the patient.

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