Blood Test May Predict Rheumatoid Arthritis

Swedish researchers found that spiked levels of proteins in the blood, known as cytokines and cytokine-related factors, may predict the onset of rheumatoid arthritis years before a patient ever experiences symptoms.

Looking at Blood SampleThe study, which was published in the February 2010 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, was led by Solbritt Rantapää-Dahlqvist, MD. The research team studied 86 patients who submitted blood samples before experiencing any rheumatoid arthritis symptoms (though they did develop the disease later on). They used blood samples from 256 healthy people as the control group.

Of the 86 patients who donated blood before being diagnosed with RA, 69 of them submitted blood samples again after being diagnosed with the disease.

The researchers measured the levels of several cykotines and related factors in the blood samples. Cykotines are proteins that are present in synovial tissue (the thin tissue that surrounds and lubricates your joints) after rheumatoid arthritis has developed. In the patients with RA, the levels of these proteins had risen considerably. But what was most interesting was that these levels began elevating years before a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis was ever made.

What This Study Means for You
These findings matter because they may be instrumental in ushering in a new era for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. "Our findings present an opportunity for better predicting the risk of developing RA and possibly preventing disease progression," said Rantapää-Dahlqvist, in a press release.

Obtaining an early RA diagnosis is so important—but at the same time, it's not very common. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are often subtle, which can push the diagnosis until the later stages of the disease. Patients who receive a diagnosis early on receive treatment sooner and may experience a better overall quality of life than those who don't get diagnosed until their symptoms are much more pronounced.

To learn more about this study, you may access the abstract here.

Updated on: 08/25/15
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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most debilitating type of arthritis because it can cause deformity and disability. RA may affect the cervical spine and cause the facet joints in the neck to become inflamed and painful.
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