Rheumatoid Arthritis Blood Tests

What kind of rheumatoid arthritis blood tests are necessary for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis? What blood tests are necessary to monitor the disease of RA? Understanding what tests are involved and what they mean can help you in controlling your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.


Blood Tests for Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis is based on a variety of factors including evaluating arthritis symptoms and a variety of diagnostic tests. Included in these diagnostic tests are a variety of blood tests. As there is no one ‘rheumatoid arthritis’ blood test, the results of a number of tests are utilized in combination to help make the diagnosis.What are the typical blood tests utilizes for making a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and what do they mean? Here are the most common tests.


Rheumatoid Factor

rheumatoid arthritis blood tests

Rheumatoid factor is an anti-body in the blood, specifically an immunoglobulin M protein that is produced by the body’s immune system. Anti-bodies function in the body by attaching to specific antigens (foreign particles in the body), and removing them from the body.

An elevated rheumatoid factor is generally considered 20 IU/ml. However, if the rheumatoid factor test does not come back as being elevated, this does not mean the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is ruled out. A negative or normal RF test occurs in 20% of those that are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.


Anti-CCP

This relatively new blood test gives hope for confirming rheumatoid arthritis much earlier than in the past. The anti-CCP stands for anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody. High to moderate levels of this antibody indicates increased activity of the immune system and can indicate increased risk for joint damage.

This blood test is unique in that it is specific to identifying rheumatoid arthritis whereas a number of other blood tests utilized do not differentiate between autoimmune diseases. Those that test positive for this test but do not show any symptoms should be monitored closely as a positive test can occur years before the onset of symptoms.


ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate)

This hematology blood test is a non-specific measure of inflammation in the body. The test measures how fast red blood cells called erythrocytes fall to the bottom of a tall, thin tube. Because it is non-specific it is used in combination with other tests.


C-reactive protein (CRP)

C-reactive protein is one of the acute phase proteins that increase during systemic inflammation. Elevated CRP is not only associated with arthritis but cardiovascular disease. As a non-specific test it does not indicate where in the body the inflammation is located. CRP is not always elevated in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. CRP can also be used to help determine if anti-inflammatory medication is being effective in reducing inflammation in the body.

Remember that a combination of rheumatoid arthritis blood tests, physical exam, and your history of symptoms will all be utilized to determine if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Discuss with your doctor what the best arthritis treatment options are for you based on your situation.




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