Arthritis Awareness Month: Diagnosing Types of Arthritis
May is Arthritis Awareness Month. Arthritis,: which means "joint inflammation" is a general term for over 100 different joint disorders with symptoms ranging from mild aches and pains to severe swelling and crippling pain. Alternative answers for arthritis include a acupuncture, effective exercise, dietary changes and controlling emotional stress. Take additional vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements can help to supplement major deficiencies. Touch therapies and hydrotherapy have also shown to be very beneficial. Learn more about how to improve your arthritis and get it under control, naturally. I will be featuring alternative answers for treating arthritis throughout the month.
Diagnosing Types of Arthritis
Your doctor will inspect the affected joint(s), checking for swelling, redness, heat, tender points, skin rashes, and other signs. Determining which joints are affected and how function is impaired helps determine a differential diagnosis of osteoarthritis from other forms of arthritis. The pattern of arthritis in the hands may be especially helpful in the diagnosis. OA tends to involve the base of the thumb and the middle and end joints of the fingers.
1. X-rays will confirm the diagnosis of arthritis but will not necessarily indicate the type of arthritis. (NOTE: not all arthritis will show up on Xrays and not all painful arthritis means that there is significant joint damage). Your doctor will look for specific structural signs in the joint(s) that suggest OA. These signs can include:
* A narrowing of the joint space.
* Bone spurs. Bone spurs are associated with chronic inflammation, which can cause calcium to accumulate near joints and tendons as seen in arthritis, tendonitis and spurs. Althought it is nature's way of protecting the joint, these bony protusions can be painful.
* One-sided distribution (for example, one knee, one hip) of joint irregularities.
* Cysts. Sometimes seen in the bone just beneath the joint surfaces.
2. By contrast, imaging studies in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) more often shows:
* Loss of calcium from the bone (localized bony decalcification)
* Erosion-producing defects or holes in the bones in a joint (Osteopenia or Osteoperosis)
* Changes in many joints on both sides of the body, particularly the hands and wrists
3. Laboratory tests: can be ordered if there is a question about the nature of joint swelling. The doctor may perform a joint aspiration. During this procedure a needle is inserted into the joint to withdraw a small amount of synovial fluid from the joint. The fluid is then tested for make-up, viscosity), blood cell counts, overall appearance, and microorganisms (if an infection is suspected):
* The fluid from an OA joint is usually clear, whereas in RA, it is cloudy due to the presence of many white blood cells. The fluid then is tested for crystals to exclude such diagnoses as gout. Blood and urine tests may be ordered to rule out conditions such as gout. The blood from people with gout contains a high level of uric acid, which is associated with the buildup of arthritis-causing crystals in the joint fluid.
* Sometimes the fluid from an OA joint contains calcium pyrophosphate crystals, which may cause mild irritation and increase swelling.
* Blood tests may be ordered in certain cases to identify infection, measure blood cell counts, and pinpoint diagnostic findings such as rheumatoid factor (RF) and human leukocyte antigen (HLA-DR4 and HLA-DR1), which are more common in people with inflammatory types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS. L.Ac
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