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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diagnosis And Treatment

If a doctor suspects a patient has rheumatoid arthritis, he will perform or order X-rays, a medical history, tests of synovial fluid (the lubricating fluid within joints), and a physical examination. Blood tests are the next step in diagnosing RA. Two antibodies within the blood, the "rheumatoid factor," and an "antinuclear antibody" (or ANA, for short), are found in many patients with RA. The rate at which red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube, known as the sedimentation rate or "sed rate," may also be noted. During flare-ups, the sed rate is faster than normal. As the disease attacks the joint, fluid injections, synovectomy, or total joint replacement may be needed to curb the pain associated with RA.

Possible medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, (including aspirin and other salicylates); steroids; gold compounds; choloroquine or hydroxychloroquine; penicillamine; immunosuppressive drugs or cortisone injections.

Protection and prevention are the mainstays of treatment.

Last updated: May-02-07


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