The first step in understanding arthritis is finding out what specific type of arthritis you have. This can be done through several tests which differentiate the causes and will help to develop a course of treatment. Arthritis is a common term for inflammation of joints; however, many diseases can cause arthritis.
Causes of arthritis can range from osteoarthritis (protective cartilage surrounding your bones starts to deteriorate) to rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder where an overactive immune system attacks normal tissues). Most importantly, arthritis may be a sign of other systemic inflammatory processes which can lead to other chronic diseases.
Each form of arthritis has a particular cause and unique needs to address. Causes include injury (leading to osteoarthritis), metabolic abnormalities (such as gout and pseudogout), hereditary factors and infections. Arthritis can be caused by tick bites, such as in Lyme’s disease. It can be caused by a diet high in animal fats or other foods that increase inflammation systemically.
Next: Common tests for arthritis
The common tests for arthritis include:
– Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA): This profile helps look for diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, polymyostitis, and scleroderma which can be sources of arthritic pain.
– Uric Acid: This acid is elevated in gout and has been associated with Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
– Sedimentation Rate: The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed. rate or ESR) is an indication of the degree of inflammation in the body. In healthy persons, the sed. rate is low and it climbs with inflammation. It is a general indication of the amount of inflammation in the body. In lupus and polymyalgia rheumatica, the ESR often correlates with disease activity.
– C-reactive protein: CRP indicates the amount of inflammation present. It is thought to be a better test than the sed. rate for certain diseases. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, if the CRP is high, it suggests that there is significant inflammation or injury in the body. It is also used to determine inflammation that can contribute to heart disease.
Both CRP and ESR levels are used to monitor disease activity and to monitor how well someone is responding to treatment.
– Antistreptolysin O (ASO) Antibodies are used to determine exposure to streptococcal streptolysin O bacteria. An elevated titer indicates that a Streptococcus infection or poststreptococcal sequelae from a previous infection are present.
– Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Factor. Rheumatoid factors are a variety of antibodies that are present in 70 percent to 90 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Rheumatoid factor can be found in people without RA or with other autoimmune disorders, however. In general, when no rheumatoid factor is present in someone with RA, the course of the disease is less severe.
Diagnosis and prognosis helps clarify what steps you need to take in treatment. To find out more about testing and how you can save on health care, go here. It will give you a start in your path to good health.
Also, stay tuned for part two of this series on arthritis.