Your joints feel stiff, and your muscles ache. You find yourself unable to do simple everyday tasks without a little discomfort. You suspect you have some form of arthritis, and maybe you’re right. But to be absolutely certain, only your doctor or another health professional can make the official diagnosis. If you are planning to visit your doctor, here is what you can probably expect.
During your initial appointment, your doctor will begin by performing a visual inspection of your body. Your doctor will check for signs of swelling and test your joints for reduced range of movement. Even if all the common signs of arthritis are present, the doctor will also have to perform additional tests to reach a conclusive and official diagnosis. Making an official arthritis diagnosis is not always easy, and may involve several tests before a conclusive diagnosis is made. Unfortunately, there is no single test that can confirm the presence of arthritis. Most doctors use three pieces of information before making a final diagnosis. These include their visual examination, any laboratory test that may be taken, and the patient’s own background history.
What sort of tests might your doctor take to make a diagnosis? There are two main types of tests that health professionals use to make a positive arthritis diagnosis. These include X-rays and blood tests. Most likely, you will have at least one of these tests taken, and sometimes both (depending on your specific case). X-rays are used to reveal any trauma or damage in your joints that may reveal the presence of arthritis. X-rays are particularly helpful in cases where osteoarthritis is suspected. X-rays may not be so helpful in detecting other forms of arthritis. For instance, it can often be difficult to diagnose for rheumatoid arthritis using X-rays. This is because no substantial damage can be detected during the early stages of the disease. The other type of test that your health professional will probably use to make a diagnosis is some kind of blood test. There are many types of blood tests, each measuring different types of chemicals and blood cells. Some blood tests, for instance, are used specifically for detecting anemia. Others can measure the level of inflammation in the body. The latter are the most helpful type of blood tests for detecting different types of arthritis. X-rays and blood tests are also often used post-diagnosis to track the progression of the disease, and to gauge the efficacy of different treatment therapies.
Most of the time, your regular doctor will present you with the official diagnosis. However, it is not uncommon that patients be referred to an arthritis specialist. An arthritis specialist may consist of an orthopedic surgeon or rheumatologist. Sometimes, the patient is referred to a specialist only after the official diagnosis is made. Once a positive diagnosis has been made, your doctor or specialist will sit down with you to discuss the results. Your doctor will explain the different treatment options and together you will agree on the proper course of treatment. Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion if you are not satisfied with your treatment options.