Progression and diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis

The main complications associated with rheumatoid arthritis are lesions and deformations in the affected joints. 


These include its symptoms, the blood test, the examination of the affected joint, and the other additional tests that help the doctor to diagnose this condition.

If the inflammation of the synovium persists, complications can arise in all of the parts of the joint (cartilage and bone underneath the cartilage) but also the surrounding ligaments and tendons. Lesions on the cartilage and bone arise as a result of substances (cytokines) attacking these structures. The tendons that surround the joint are also affected and, if no treatment is provided, contribute to the development of deformed joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis can go into remission periods, where the symptoms alleviate or disappear. In the long term, it can cause cardiovascular complications and can also have an impact on life expectancy if no treatment is provided.


There is no simple test for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. The diagnosis is based on all of the signs and symptoms that the patient describes to their doctor. The doctor will examine the patient’s joints very closely to evaluate their mobility and the pain that this causes. Once the diagnostic assessment is done, a series of additional analyses can be performed to identify:

- The presence of rheumatoid factor
- The presence of inflammation due to biological parameters measured via blood tests: blood sedimentation rate, C-reactive protein (CRP) and elevated platelets (thrombocytes)
- The presence of antibodies against CCPs detectable early
- Radiography tests
- Echography that allows joint swelling to be imaged well before radiography
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

Rheumatoid arthritis should be diagnosed as early as possible, because the treatments are at their most effective in the early stages of the illness.

Last updated: 16/07/2018

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