If the patient has early signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, the doctor may refer the patient to a rheumatologist – a doctor who specializes in rheumatic diseases. A rheumatologist will work with the patient and the patient’s primary care physician to achieve and provide treatment. This article will discuss how to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.

Since there is no exact known cause of rheumatoid arthritis, doctors consider a number of different factors before reaching a diagnosis. To achieve a diagnosis, doctors follow a given procedure, considering several criteria, and not one individual test. This includes examining physical symptoms, family history, and blood tests and other tests to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.

Some cases may be easier to diagnose than others, especially in the early stages of the development of symptoms, when the symptoms may be less clear. Doctors look at all the possibilities and that their examination and testing results are consistent with most cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

How to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis


To begin the diagnostic process, doctors first look at the symptoms. Rheumatoid arthritis has a clear set of early signs and symptoms that make doctors see it as a diagnosis. These initial symptoms include:

  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling for more than 6 weeks.
  • Swelling affecting 3 to 4 different joints or more.
  • Morning stiffness lasts more than 30 minutes.
  • Symmetric symptoms affecting both the left and side of the body.
  • Swelling and pain affecting the wrists, hands and finger joints.
  • Rheumatoid nodules developing under the skin.

If these symptoms cause anxiety for more than six consecutive weeks, doctors may treat them as symptoms specific to rheumatoid arthritis, unlike other types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis.

Doctors can also search and ask for symptoms such as fatigue, mild fever, loss of appetite, and even feelings of depression and malaise.

A complete medical examination helps doctors find these symptoms and examine the joints for pain, swelling, warmth, and redness. They ask about the difficulties associated with moving the joints and decreasing the range of motion.

Symptoms may arise and go away, but usually, they do not. They remain visible and possibly progressive.

How to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis

Medical and family history.

The patient history and family history of the patient are important factors in helping to achieve a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have shown that the average risk that someone from the general population develops rheumatoid arthritis is about 1%. However, if there is a family history of the disease, the risk of another member of the family developing rheumatoid arthritis increases. Therefore, genetics is an additional factor in addition to other factors.

When diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis, doctors ask about the following:

  • Family members of the patient who have had or have rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Existing or past autoimmune disorders in the patient.
  • Family members of a patient with other autoimmune disorders.
  • Other diseases, illnesses or complications.

Depending on the unique response set of each patient, it can help doctors identify factors that lead to the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Blood tests.

One of the most important and useful criteria for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis is a blood test to determine a specific set of antibodies, which are known triggers of symptoms. There are many blood tests that can be performed during the diagnosis process. These tests include:

  • Rheumatoid factor.
  • Cyclic Citrulinated Peptide, Anti – PCP.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C – reactive protein.

Rheumatoid factor.

Rheumatoid factor is a type of antibody found in most patients with rheumatoid arthritis. If the patient experiences a positive result for the rheumatoid factor, he helps to achieve a diagnosis, but his presence does not confirm it.

Many patients with other autoimmune disorders and inflammatory conditions evaluate rheumatoid factor positively but do not have rheumatoid arthritis.

Anti – CCP.

Since the rheumatoid factor is not a guarantee of the development of rheumatoid arthritis, doctors are now checking for the presence of another antibody, anti-PCP. If the patient positively evaluates anti-CCP, this is a strong indicator of the disease. Nonetheless, Anti-CCP antibodies can exist in the human system long before they develop symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C – reactive protein.

These are tests that doctors use to measure the level of inflammation in a patient’s joints. If a person indicates a certain level of inflammation and exhibits symptoms of the disease, this becomes another very strong indicator of a possible diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Scan Images.

When a patient has strong and clear symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, the doctor can also order a series of image scans. These include x-rays, MRI, and possibly ultrasounds. In these image scans, doctors look for signs of joint damage. Erosion of bones and cartilage, as well as narrowing of the joints, can be signs of the disease.  The prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis disease .


As soon as all these steps are taken, the doctors will look at everything and come to a conclusion based on general results. Some doctors use a more symptom-based approach to diagnosing the disease, while others use blood tests and medical history to confirm the diagnosis.

This is why you can diagnose a disease, but not test positive for antibodies or have a history of rheumatoid arthritis in your family. If the symptoms themselves are consistent with rheumatoid arthritis, then it can still be diagnosed.

In this case, usually, there are two classifications of rheumatoid arthritis. However, the main diagnostic criteria should include a persistent demonstration of symptoms for more than six weeks, symmetrical symptoms, and multiple joints, including fingers and hands.

Diagnosis classification

If the patient displays all the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and positively evaluates the antibodies, then they can be diagnosed with seropositive rheumatoid arthritis.

However, if the patient shows all the symptoms, but does not test positive for the antibodies, doctors can put seronegative rheumatoid arthritis.  Corticosteroids.

Other factors

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be mistaken for other conditions. Doctors work to rule out the potential of other diseases when they are first warned of possible signs of the disease. Once these conditions have been ruled out, this makes it clearer for the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Some of these conditions include:

  • Several other forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis.
  • Lupus.
  • Lyme disease.
  • Gout.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Another disease.

Due to the ambiguous nature of many diagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis, researchers are constantly looking for connections and similarities between the symptoms of the disease and the genetics of patients and the history of the disease. How to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis is difficult and can be difficult, the most important thing is to detect the symptoms early and start treatment as soon as possible.


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