Early Diagnosis for Rheumatoid Arthritis

by / Monday, 30 September 2019 / Published in Blog

Studies show that early diagnosis is the key to treating rheumatoid arthritis. If the condition can be caught early, the progression of the condition can be prevented from causing permanent damage, disability and functional decline.

In addition, the patient benefits from reduction of chronic systemic inflammation since unchecked chronic inflammation leads to progressive cardiovascular disease.

Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis requires several factors to be considered. While inflammatory arthritis can be present in any bone joint, hand and feet symptoms are really prominent in this condition. Pain that is worse right when you wake up and better with activity, is again another sign of an inflammatory arthritis.

If a person’s symptoms have lasted longer than 6 weeks, there is a high likelihood that it is a chronic long-term condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, joint inflammation can be caused due to an infected joint, or reactive arthritis (body’s reaction to either an infection, or a medication) that can lead to an inflammatory arthritis.

On examination, the classic findings include swollen, warm, and tender joints. However, at an early stage, some of those findings may not be present. Other signs include difficulty making a full grip with the hand and tenderness as you squeeze the person’s hands or their feet.

While lab tests and physical examination may not prove definitive in the early stages of the disease, a Diagnostic Musculoskeletal Ultrasound is highly effective in diagnosis. The ultrasound can detect very subtle findings of inflammatory arthritis, including slight effusions in the joints. Ultrasound can also pick up ‘Power Doppler Uptake’ – a sign of more aggressive inflammation. An MRI can also pick up signs of subtle inflammatory arthritis.

If rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed sooner, the modifying treatment can be started at an early stage, and progression of this condition can be prevented. Treatment may include anti-inflammatory medications and NSAIDs. Steroids may be used in the short-term to control inflammation, quick acting relief, and help patients function better.

Beginning a disease modifying treatment is the most important first step in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Methotrexate is usually prescribed. Other things can do are – focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet, or a low carbohydrate diet, avoiding refined sugars, minimizing red meat, and taking supplements, such as Omega 3 and Turmeric. Exercise, as tolerated, is important to maintain muscle strength.