Did you wake up this morning and realize you just don't rise and shine like you used to because you feel sore and stiff? Perhaps you struggle a bit these days walking up steps because your knees hurt, or maybe you can't grip a shopping bag or wield a pair of scissors very well because your hands ache.
Joint for 1 last update 2020/07/11 pain, stiffness, morning achiness — these are all possible signs of arthritis, and if they persist despite rest or other home remedies, it's probably time to call your doctor.Joint pain, stiffness, morning achiness — these are all possible signs of arthritis, and if they persist despite rest or other home remedies, it's probably time to call your doctor.
Diagnosing arthritis often requires more than just a quick trip to the doctor's office. Even with specific symptoms like joint pain, you’ll need diagnostic tests and possibly an appointment with a specialist (a rheumatologist) who can determine if your symptoms are being caused by one of the many types of arthritis or by something else.
Diagnosing Arthritis: The Doctor Visit
If you start experiencing possible symptoms of arthritis that don't subside, it's time to head to the doctor. But who do you go to for the aches and pains of arthritis? The best place to start is with your regular family physician or internist who you see for checkups, colds, the flu, and other basic illnesses.
Your doctor will start by asking you a lot of questions about the symptoms of arthritis you're experiencing and any illnesses or injuries you've had in the past — this is called taking your medical history.
treatments for juvenile idiopathic arthritishow to treatments for juvenile idiopathic arthritis for Diagnostic for 1 last update 2020/07/11 TestsDiagnostic Tests
Next, a series of diagnostic tests will be done to help your doctor figure out if arthritis is what's behind your joint pain and discomfort. Testing may include:
- A physical examination of the joint to look at mobility, swelling, pain, and other signs of joint damage
- A discussion of the severity of your pain
- Blood tests to check for proteins, antibodies, and other indicators of arthritis
- X-rays of the affected joint
- An MRI or CT scan of the joint
- A bone density scan
- An ultrasound of the joint
- Arthroscopy, a procedure in which a tube with a camera on one end is inserted into the joint to get a close-up view of the damage
- Removal and evaluation of a joint fluid sample
treatments for juvenile idiopathic arthritishow to treatments for juvenile idiopathic arthritis for Not all of these tests will be necessary, but a combination of them may be needed to get a clear picture of what's causing your symptoms.
If your tests come back positive, your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating patients with arthritis. From there, you'll figure out what kind of arthritis you have and the best way to treat it.
Possible Arthritis Diagnoses
There is more than one kind of arthritis, which can complicate the diagnostic process. For example, a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis typically requires imaging and blood tests, while osteoarthritis can often be diagnosed more quickly and with fewer tests.
Osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis caused by wear and tear on the joints, is most common in older adults and can often be diagnosed with a medical history, a physical exam, and some lab tests to confirm it. But for rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, the diagnostic process is a bit more involved. It requires a more thorough evaluation because there is no one single test that can positively diagnose rheumatoid arthritis right away. Rather, a number of different of tests are needed, and the results are put together like pieces of a puzzle to form a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.
Other types of arthritis may also require a more intensive, and extensive, process. These include psoriatic arthritis, a type of arthritis that accompanies the skin disorder psoriasis, and reactive arthritis, a type of arthritis that follows infection. Still others may be misdiagnosed because they look like something else altogether, such as polymyalgia rheumatica, a condition that is typically seen in people aged 50 and up, and ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disorder that affects the spine and some joints.
Diagnosing arthritis may sometimes be a very involved process, but once your doctor determines what you have, you will be on your way to managing your condition.