Do I Have Arthritis?
As a rheumatologist, this is the most common question that Dr. Humeira Badsha encounters. Many people are afraid that the pain they have in their joints will cripple them.
If you have joint pains it is very important to have this checked early by the right specialist. When treated early arthritis can be completely controlled!
When you consult a Rheumatologist, he or she will take a full history and do a thorough examination to determine the cause of your pain. Often people say that they do not have rheumatoid arthritis because their blood test did not show it or they are wrongly diagnosed with this condition on the basis of a false test. But the fact is, only 70% of people with rheumatoid arthritis have a positive blood test. Sometimes the test is positive in the absence of arthritis. This is why it is so important to have the diagnosis made by a qualified expert.
How is Arthritis diagnosed?
The first step is the history and these are some of the questions your doctor may ask:
How many joints are painful?
If you have pain in only one joint such as a knee it may be more likely that you have osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid and many other kinds of arthritis usually affect multiple joints.
Where is your pain?
Patients often say “Doctor, I have hip pain.” while pointing to their buttock area. The hip joint usually gives you pain in the groin. Pain in the buttock area could be coming from a pinched nerve in the back. Some people think their knees are painful whereas the pain is actually much below the knee in an area called the anserine bursa. Often, shoulder pain is due to tendonitis and not arthritis.
If the pain affects the small joints of the hands you could have rheumatoid arthritis.
Does the pain affect both sides of the body?
Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect the body in a more symmetrical manner.
How long have you had the pain and how did it start?
If your ankle is painful for 1- 2 weeks after you sprained it, this is unlikely to be due to arthritis. However, if you have pain consistently for more than 6 – 8 weeks it is more likely to be arthritis.
When is the pain worse?
Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory arthritis are usually worse first thing in the morning because the inflammation and fluid accumulate in joints overnight. Osteoarthritis tends to be worse as the day goes on and the joint is used more and more.
Are you stiff in the morning and how long does it last?
Stiffness in joints for more than an hour could indicate inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis. Stiffness due to osteoarthritis usually lasts less than half an hour. Less than 5 minutes of stiffness could be normal.
Have you had skin rashes or psoriasis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis which is very similar to rheumatoid arthritis. Skin rashes on the face or extreme sensitivity to sunlight could indicate lupus.
Do you have recurrent ulcers in the mouth?
This can be a sign of Behcet’s disease or Lupus
Severe hair loss?
This can occur with lupus
Fevers and weight loss?
Can occur with severe forms of arthritis but usually are a sign of infection.