Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis: Monitoring the Effects of the Disease

Published by Steve Hedberg on December 7, 2009 Under arthritis

Properly Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis can often be very tricky, as there is no one test that will tell the doctor for a certainty that the patient has rheumatoid arthritis. Instead, the doctor usually preforms a number of tests, taking into account the patients symptoms and history. Once the diagnosis has been made, it is very important to regularly visit the doctor to check the progression of the disease and determine the effectiveness of the treatment.

There are a number of different tests a doctor may preform that provide an indication of how effective the treatment is and the spread of the disease. However, speaking with the patient often provides the clearest indication of how the disease is affecting the patient.

Checking for Inflammation and Tenderness

One of the most common tests a doctor will preform is to determine the level of inflammation in the patient. This involves physically examining the joints, checking for any swelling or tenderness, as well as checking C-reactive Protein Levels, which provide an indication of whether the body is currently fighting an infection.

Often, this is most important during the first few years, when inflammation is more of a problem than joint damage.

Determining Joint Damage

Using X-Rays, physical examination, and mobility tests that are used to measure the functional ability of the patient, the doctor is often able to determine if there is any joint damage. During the first few years of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation is usually the biggest concern, but as the disease progresses, joint damage becomes more common.

There are many mobility tests that are preformed, but it often involves observing the patient as they walk or use small objects. These types of tests are very important in determining how the diseases is effecting the everyday life of the senior. Often, if the doctor spots a problem, they will suggest ways of making living with arthritis easier.

Determining How the Disease Will Affect the Patient

Determining the probable outcome of the disease on the patient is very important and can indicate how much loss of function a person can expect from arthritis. Using studies, the patients history, and their experience, an arthritis expert can often accurately tell the patient how the diseases will ultimately affect their life.

This is important, as by knowing the probable outcome of the disease, the doctor can develop a treatment plan to help mitigate these risks.

Putting it All Together

While sometimes the above techniques will provide a very clear picture of the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, this is not always the case. For instance, many times there may be few signs of inflammation, even while the joints are deteriorating. As a result, it is very important to take into account the full history and symptoms of the patient, as well as all the tests. Otherwise, it could be very easy to miss something important.

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