In addition to clinical evaluation involving a discussion of symptoms and a physical exam, laboratory and non-laboratory testing is often done to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, to distinguish it from other forms of arthritis and conditions with similar symptoms, and to evaluate its severity. Testing can also be used to monitor the condition, its potential complications, response to Treatment, and to monitor for potential side effects associated with some treatments.
- Rheumatoid factor (RF) – used to help diagnose RA; it is eventually present in significant concentrations in most people with RA but can also be present in other conditions and in a small percentage of healthy people.
- Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide Antibody (CCP) – a relatively new test that may be used to help diagnose RA, especially early in the disease and in patients who are RF negative.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) – this test shows the presence of inflammation in the body and the activity of the disease. It is used to help diagnose RA and to evaluate and monitor the condition. ESR will be increased in RA but not in osteoarthritis.
- C-reactive protein test (CRP) – this test also indicates inflammation and tests for the activity of the disease. It may be used to help diagnose RA and to evaluate and monitor the condition. An increased level of CRP occurs in RA but not in osteoarthritis.
- Complete Blood Count (CBC) – this is a group of tests used to help evaluate the person's red and white blood cells and hemoglobin to help evaluate and monitor the condition and complications such as anemia and/or a decreased white blood cell count.
- Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP) – this is a group of tests that may be used to help evaluate and monitor kidney and liver function.
- X-ray – used to help diagnose RA and monitor joint damage but will not usually show significant changes early in the disease.
- Ultrasound and MRI – may be used to help detect changes in the joints earlier in the disease.