Three decades ago, rheumatologists could diagnose rheumatoid arthritis only many years after people first spotted their symptoms. Interestingly, the then doctors regarded the said diagnosis as ‘quick enough’, despite the long gap between the onset of rheumatology symptoms and the RA determination.
This gap has been coming down over the years, thanks mainly to developments in medical technology. Nowadays, doctors might deem the diagnosis ‘too slow’ albeit it happens 6 months after people notice the first RA symptoms. Nevertheless, they know that it is much better as compared to diagnosing RA a decade after the arrival of these symptoms. Keep reading to know how the RA diagnosis is like today.
Studies demonstrate that some cases of rheumatoid arthritis are likely to cause joint damage within just 3 to 4 months. Therefore, it is very important to visit a rheumatology specialist for the RA diagnosis and to possibly start following the proper treatment plan. Anyhow, several factors could delay the treatment, including confusing symptoms, not having perfect rheumatology tests for RA’s diagnosis, and long waiting periods for the specialists.
Three distinctive characteristics of an RA-affected joint seem deceptively straightforward: tender, swollen, and painful. However, without a rheumatologist, the path towards the right diagnosis is unlikely to be straightforward.
For instance, rheumatoid arthritis could just resemble osteoarthritis, which is a more common health condition that occurs due to physical damage. Unlike osteoarthritis (OA), RA occurs due to the immune system wrongly attacking healthy body cells. RA could also have the symptoms akin to a different autoimmune condition, such as median nerve compression or systemic lupus erythematosus.
Recent viral illnesses or bodily injuries are likely to bring about swelling and pain, similar to what an RA patient feels for a brief period. Therefore, the nonprofit American College of Rheumatology (ACR) says that 42 days of symptoms are required for a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis to happen.
Several lingering symptoms may point to rheumatoid arthritis, but it does not always mean that one has RA. It only means that the person has to visit a rheumatologist as soon as possible. On the other hand, any nagging pain in the joint could lead to RA diagnosis, albeit it occurs in an uncommon area of the body. For instance, one could experience pain in the joint situated nearest to their nail of the thumb, as an unusual condition for rheumatoid arthritis.