Exams and Tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Written by Lawrence G. Lenke, MD

To diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, the doctor will run through several exams and tests.
Physical Exam and History
An evaluation for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) includes a physical examination and careful history. In the physical exam, your doctor will assess:

The doctor will also note symptoms of fatigue, stiffness, and weakness, and he or she will also ask how the disease affects your daily life.

Neurologic Exam
A neurologic exam helps the doctor understand how or if RA is affecting your nerves and nerve functions. A neurologic evaluation includes assessment of your symptoms, including:

Lab Tests
The doctor may order lab tests to:

It's also possible that the doctor will order a urinalysis and / or a hepatic panel. The hepatic panel is used to determine your liver and pancreatic functions, and these tests provide a baseline and insight into the patient's general health.

Imaging Tests
Radiographs (x-rays)
are taken of the cervical spine (RA affects mainly the neck, also known as the cervical spine). These x-rays are used to assess:

The degree of joint space, malalignment, or deformity is measured using radiographs.

A myelogram-enhanced MRI or CT scan may be performed to determine and evaluate spinal cord compression, if your doctor thinks that's a possibility.

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