If you have been struggling with symptoms that your doctor thinks may be due to a rheumatic disorder, they will probably refer you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in this type of disease. Visiting a rheumatologist can be a little scary at first, but if you know what to expect, you can walk into that appointment with greater confidence. Here are the tests a rheumatologist is likely to order at the first appointment.
Rheumatoid Factor Tests
This is a simple blood test. Your doctor or nurse will collect a small blood sample and send it off to the lab. The blood test will check for the presence of a rheumatoid factor, which is an antibody your own body will form if you do, in fact, have a rheumatic condition. Some people can have low levels of this antibody circulating without necessarily having a rheumatic disease, but higher levels of a rheumatic factor are a pretty good indicator that you have RA or a similar disease.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate Test
This is another blood test. It can generally be conducted on the same sample as your rheumatoid factor test. It measures how quickly your red blood cells settle out of the liquid portion of your blood. If the erythrocytes or red blood cells take longer than usual to settle, this is a sign of a rheumatic condition, such as RA or lupus. The results of this test won't necessarily tell your rheumatologist which rheumatic disease you have, but they can tell them whether or not you likely have one of these diseases, which will prompt further testing.
An ANA test, or antinuclear antibody test, is a specific type of blood test that measures the presence of a certain type of antibody in the blood. If the levels of this antibody are high, then that suggests you may have lupus. If the levels are low but you have rheumatic symptoms, this result suggests you may have RA. The ANA test you have during your first visit to the rheumatologist likely won't be your last. This test is usually re-conducted periodically to measure how well you're responding to the medications you're prescribed.
When you visit your rheumatologist for the first time, be prepared for them to order these tests. Luckily, they are all simple blood tests, and the results are generally available within a few days, which should give a lot of insight into the condition you're suffering from.
For more information, contact a company like Sarasota Arthritis Center.
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