Your joints are pained and swollen. You feel stiff in the morning. Do you have arthritis? When you go to the doctor, your doctor takes a medical history and does a visual inspection. Most of the time, your doctor will be able to make a positive diagnosis simply by listening to your symptoms and examining your swollen muscles. But other times, your doctor may need to take samples of bodily fluids to get at the root of the problem. What are these lab tests that are used to make so many positive diagnoses? And what else are lab tests used for? Your doctor may take lab tests for a variety of reasons. The doctor may need a lab test to confirm a specific diagnosis. He or she may need the lab test to see if your drug therapy is working or if it’s causing any side effects. Lab tests can help monitor the progress of the disease or the effectiveness of the medication. Most lab tests are performed using blood, although your doctor may need other bodily fluids at times. These fluids may include joint fluid, urine, or even small tissue sample from your skin or muscles. Blood is the most common type of lab test because it is the easiest and safest to sample. The lab can easily study blood samples under the microscope and search for clues about what’s going inside your body.
Although lab tests can be very helpful in confirming certain types of arthritis, it does have its share of limitations. In the past, lab tests have failed at confirming the presence of certain kinds of arthritis. For instance, it is believed that only one in every five cases of rheumatoid arthritis were determined through lab tests. Approximately 15 to 20 per cent of all people with rheumatoid arthritis never actually test positive for it through lab tests alone. Another limitation of lab tests is that they can sometimes show a negative diagnosis when the person in fact does have the disease or condition. Another major limitation of lab tests is that are rather poor at confirming the presence of some forms of arthritis. Because of these limitations, doctors must also use other forms of examinations and tests to make a conclusive diagnosis. Common tests used to confirm the presence of arthritis include magnetic resonance imaging and X-rays. The presence of osteoarthritis, for instance, is usually confirmed through these tests, rather than through lab tests. X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging are also used to find the cause of back pain or to examine whether a patient’s internal organs are being affected by their arthritis.
Despite these limitations, lab tests are still a powerful tool that can be used to diagnose arthritis. When used in conjunction with other tests and the patient’s medical history, lab tests can be effective in making a positive diagnosis. Moreover, lab tests can help spot areas of trouble that other tests simply cannot find. Lab tests can also be effective in confirming less common forms of arthritis.