Rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult to diagnose because many conditions cause joint stiffness and inflammation and there's no definitive test for the condition.
You should see your GP if you have these symptoms so they can try to determine the cause.
Your GP willcarry out a physical examination, checking your joints for any swelling and to assess how easily they move. Your GP will also ask you about your symptoms.
It's important to tell your GP about allyour symptoms, not just ones you think are important, as this will helpthem tomake the correct diagnosis.
If your GP thinks you have rheumatoid arthritis,they'll refer you to a specialist (rheumatologist).
Your GP may arrangeblood tests to help confirm the diagnosis.
Noblood test candefinitively prove or rule out a diagnosis ofrheumatoid arthritis, buta number of tests can show possible indications of the condition.
Some of the main tests usedinclude:
Anaemia meansthe blood is unable to carry enough oxygen, because of a lack of blood cells.
Anaemia is common in people withrheumatoid arthritis, althoughhaving anaemiadoesn't prove you have rheumatoid arthritis.
Specific blood tests can help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, but aren't accurate in everyone.
About half of all people with rheumatoid arthritis have a positive rheumatoid factor present in their blood when the disease starts, but about one in 20 people without rheumatoid arthritis also tests positive.
An antibody test known as anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide) is available. People who test positive for anti-CCP are very likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, but not everybody found to have rheumatoid arthritis has this antibody.
Those who test positive for both rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP may be more likely to have severe rheumatoid arthritis requiring higher levels of treatment.
A number of different scans may also be carried out to check for joint inflammation and damage. These can help tell the difference between different types of Arthritis and can be used to monitor howyour condition is progressing over time.
Scans that may be carried out to diagnose and monitor rheumatoid arthritis include:
Read about rheumatoid arthritis, a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis mainly affects the joints, although it can cause problems in other parts of the body too.
Read about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, which means it's caused by the bodys immune system attacking itself
Read about diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. It can be difficult to diagnose because many conditions cause joint stiffness and inflammation
Read about treating rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment can help reduce inflammation in the joints, relieve pain and prevent or slow joint damage.
Read about living with rheumatoid arthritis. It can be life-changing and you may need long-term treatment to control your symptoms and reduce joint damage.
Read about complications of rheumatoid arthritis. Having rheumatoid arthritis can put you at a higher risk of developing other conditions
Paul Casimir has been living with arthritis for half his life, but he doesnt let it stop him doing the things he enjoys.
Jonathan Gledhill was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when he was 27. He explains how arthritis affects his life.