Simptoms, tests, diagnostics
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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an immune system disease whichattacks the tissues in the body. Early symptoms of RA affect joints in the hand, wrist, knees,ankles, and feet and include pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. Severe symptoms include loss of joint movement and even joint deformity. It is possible for the disease to go into remission causing the pain and swelling in early stages to disappear. However, those symptomswill appear again later.

When diagnosing this disease there are several tests that come into play. One of those is a blood test that confirms whether a person is seropositive or seronegative. Being seropositive does not mean that you absolutely have RA; it does help determine conclusively that a person has the disease when other tests show a similar outcome.

What Does it Mean to be Seropositive?

To determine if a person is seropositive for RA, a doctor will order a blood test. The blood test is used to help medical experts find two proteins: rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-CCP. When either of these proteins are present in the blood test it may indicate that RA is present in the body. However, being seropositive does not conclusively diagnose RA. Seropositivity simply means that there is significant evidence to continue investigating the disease.

The Difference Between Seropositive and Seronegative Tests

Seropositive patients are more likely to develop more serious diseases and to have extra-articular complications than those who are seronegative. Neither test conclusively determine if a person has RA, but they do help to increase the probability of the existence of the disease.

What a Seropositive Test Does Not Tell Us

A test that is seropositive does not tell us whether someone conclusively has RA. It also does not tell us how extreme the disease will be for the person, though it may indicate that the symptoms will be more severe if one is seropositive. The test does not tell us how a person will respond to medications, though through time it has been found that people without both RF and anti-CCP have trouble responding to rituximab treatment.

Other Tests Given After Determining Seropositivity

Once it is determined that a person has RF and/or anti-CCP more tests will be given to help in diagnosing RA. Typically these tests check for inflammation in the joints. X-rays will also be used to diagnose any bone damage in the joint and extra-articular features of RA (e.g. features outside the joints) such as nodules.