Spinal Inflammatory Arthritis: Early Diagnosis Important
Early detection of spinal inflammatory arthritis is important so a treatment plan can start to reduce symptoms and retard disease progression. Evaluation includes a detailed medical history, comprehensive physical and neurological examination, x-rays (such as flexion and extension); other imaging studies such as CT or MRI, and lab work.
The medical history is especially important to help distinguish an inflammatory spinal disorder from a mechanical or degenerative back problem. Blood work, while not always critical, is more important in inflammatory arthritis than in the more common osteoarthritis. Some forms of inflammatory arthritis, such as ankylosing spondylitis, are first seen in the sacroiliac joints. Therefore, the sacroiliac joints may be carefully examined and x-rayed in suspect patients.
Lab Tests, Autoantibodies (Disease Markers)
Blood work tests for autoantibodies, or disease markers. One such test detects the rheumatoid factor, or Rh factor. The rheumatoid factor (a disease marker) is found in most patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The Rh factor is an autoantibody, a harmful antibody made by the body's immune system. Normal antibodies are good and help the body fight disease. By undergoing a test for the rheumatoid factor, patients are found to be either seropositive (positive for Rh factor) or seronegative (absence of Rh factor).
Researchers discovered that some patients with rheumatoid arthritis have another autoantibody called anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide). If the patient has the anti-CCP marker, it can be used to diagnose unexplained joint inflammation. Early anti-CCP awareness can help determine a patient's likelihood to develop a more destructive form of rheumatoid arthritis.
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