For the vast majority of people, your doctor will be able to work out what’s wrong with you by:
- listening to you describe your symptoms
- examining you joints
- examining your range of movement
- looking at your medical history
- looking at the medical history of your family
- ordering certain tests (e.g. x-rays, blood test, MRI)
Putting your symptoms into words into words can be difficult. It may help you to think about how you would answer the following questions before you visit your doctor.
- Which of your joints affected?
- Have you noticed that your range of movement has changed?
- Have you started to find it difficult to carry out certain tasks (e.g. buttoning up clothes) that never used to be a problem?
- Have you experienced any swelling around your joints?
- How often do you have pain or stiffness?
- Do your symptoms get worse at certain times of days or after doing certain things?
- What makes your symptoms better or worse?
Testing for Arthritis
Although there is no single diagnostic test that can confirm explicitly whether or not you have arthritis (be it osteo- or rheumatoid), there are a number of tests that can help your doctor piece together the evidence. The most common of these are blood tests and scans.
There are a number of reasons why the doctor treating you may order a blood test:
- to help them confirm that you have arthritis
- to rule out other illnesses
- to see how advanced your arthritis is
- to see if your treatment is working.
Blood samples will usually have to be sent away to a laboratory for analysis and so it may take several days for the results to come in. In the laboratory, there are a number of things that can be measured, including:
Rheumatoid Factor (RF)
This is a type of antibody, a special type of blood cell that helps to fight infections. Rheumatoid factor can sometimes be used to show whether or not you have rheumatoid arthritis. The test should only be used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis together with other pieces of evidence.
Full Blood Count (FBC)
This measures the levels of a whole host of cells and substances in your bloodstream. It can reveal anaemia or a high white cell count. Both of these are usually just part of the disease and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, but sometimes anaemia can be due to lack of iron and a high white count may indicate infection.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation (ESR)
This test measures how quickly your red blood cells (erythrocytes) settle down when they are spun around and then left to stand. The ESR is a means of measuring how much inflammation your arthritis is currently causing. Other tests which measure the amount of inflammation include plasma vicosity and the C-related protein (CRP) tests.
As a disease like osteoarthritis progresses, the damage to the bone can become more pronounced, and it is at this stage that X-rays are most useful.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans are relatively quick and easy ways of obtaining detailed images of the inside of the body, without having to perform surgery.
MRI scanners use radio waves (which are safer than X-rays) and high-powered magnetic field to create two- or three-dimensional images. MRI scanners in particular can distinguish between bone and soft tissue and therefore provide a more detailed picture of the state of a joint as a whole (and not just the bone).
How is Arthritis Treated?
The way in which your arthritis is treated depend on the type of arthritis that you have. However, the overall aims of any treatment programme are to:
- reduce or relieve pain
- reduce inflammation
- improve your mobility
- improve your quality of life.
Treating Arthritis with Medications
- For osteoarthritis, drug treatment revolves around providing pain relief.
- For rheumatoid arthritis, drugs can be used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation but may also be used to slow down the progression of the disease itself.
Treating Arthritis with Injection
- For osteoarthritis, Synvisc injection can be explored.
- For rheumatoid arthritis, anti-inflammatory injection is recommended.
Treating Arthritis with Surgery
Although most people with arthritis will never need surgery, it can be used as a last resort if all other treatment options failed to work or if the joint is very badly damaged.
This procedure involves the total replacement of the affected joint (usually the hips or knee). During the operation, the surgeon will remove the damaged joint and replace it with an artificial one (made from plastic, ceramics or metal). Joint replacements usually last between 10 and 20 years.
Resurfacing the damaged joint is a less drastic alternative to replacing the joint completely, and is most usually performed in younger people with arthritis. Typically, the surface of the joint (usually the hip joint) is replaced by a metal hemisphere and the joint socket is lined with a metal shell.
Call +65 6471 2674 (24 Hour) if you wish to see our doctor and seek treatment regarding arthritis.