Overview of Joints
|How is Arthritis Diagnosed?
A doctor will often be able to diagnose arthritis by a patient's history and specific symptoms. A physical examination of the joints will be carried out and certain blood tests are useful for distinguishing the various types of arthritis. Fluid surrounding the joints can be extracted with a needle and sent to a laboratory for diagnosis. An X-ray or MRI scan may be carried out to see the extent of joint damage. If septic/infectious arthritis is suspected, for example resulting from gonorrhea, a culture sample will be taken from the cervix for analysis. Any swelling or joint stiffness occurring from an infection needs to be treated promptly to avoid permanent joint damage.
A comprehensive medical history; discussion of any potential symptoms of arthritis including pain, stiffness and swelling; and a physical examination of the affected areas.
Discussion of your medical history, allergies and any medications you may be taking.
1. Have there been any past traumas which may have caused joint damage or infection? This is a common cause of arthritis of the knee.
How long stiffness lasts is proportional to the advancement of the disease and how much inflammation there is. Degenerative arthritis like osteoporosis is associated with stiffness and occasional swelling first thing in the morning and after periods of inactivity. The stiffening of joints is known as 'gelling'. With inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, stiffness and swelling of joints occurs in the morning but lasts for longer, an hour or more. Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is also associated with morning stiffness but more specifically of the shoulder, neck, buttocks and thighs.
Extreme tiredness is more associated with inflammatory arthritis and fibromyalgia pain. Morning and midday fatigue is a common complaint of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, while fibromyalgia patients tend to feel tired on a constant basis.
Cracking Of Joints
A cracking, popping or creaking sound coming from the joints is not necessarily an indication of arthritis. A study showed that those who cracked their fingers and knuckles regularly showed no increased risk of developing arthritis of the hand. The phenomenon is little understood. Some arthritic patients do notice cracking sounds with joint movement but this is considered unharmful and does not damage the joints.
Feeling Of General Wellness
Your doctor will ask about how you are generally feeling:
The Physical Examination
The initial goal of a physical examination is to identify the source of pain. The doctor will probe all the joints and examine the tissue around them. He will look for signs of:
The doctor will also test movement of the joints using one or all of 3 techniques:
Active Movement: This is where the patient moves her own muscles through a range of motions.
Blood tests are often used to confirm a doctor's diagnosis. What might a blood test reveal?
Rheumatoid Factor: An antibody which is found in the blood and is present in nearly 80 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis. It can still be present in people without the disease but usually only where a family member has the condition.
|Related Articles on Arthritis
For more issues, see the following:
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