Blood Tests for Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis and CBD Help
Back in the day, my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis was all clear – blood work had all the elevated bio-markers to potentially indicate Rheumatoid Arthritis. And, coupling with that, much clinical evidence in the form of joint damage was apparent. It was a clear case of acute inflammation. But this is not always the case, and blood work, by itself, cannot not always indicate Rheumatoid Arthritis.
And regardless, if we are discussing inflammation, It's always worthwhile mentioning CBD (cannabidiol CBD) oil for pain and inflammation and other CBD products for chronic pain like our CBD roll on stick that can help with fighting inflammation and by that, reducing pain.
Which factors and blood tests will indicate a Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis
Let’s start at the end –
Physicians, or more specifically, Rheumatologists, will run some blood tests and add into the formula some other personal medical factors like the patient’s medical history and the patient’s family medical history. Clinical evidence like joint pain, deformations, and swelling also serve as complementary indications for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
There are two blood tests that can help detect the presence of specific antibodies that indicate inflammation:
· RF (Rheumatoid Factor) – can either be positive or negative
· anti CCP (Anti Cyclic Citrullinated Peptides anti ccp) – theoretically, the higher the value of the test's result is, the more severe the Rheumatoid Arthritis case will be.
However, none of these tests, on its own, can validate having Rheumatoid Arthritis
An RF test can come back negative, but, still, Rheumatoid Arthritis can be present.
Although a strong indication for having Rheumatoid Arthritis, an anti CCP blood test can come positive yet Rheumatoid Arthritis will not be present.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, more specifically autoimmune arthritis. In the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the body’s immune system will attack its joints, causing swelling of the joints, debilitating pain, and, in later stages, joint deformation. According to the Arthritis Foundation, in the United States, over 2% of the population suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.
Although blood tests are not sole indicators for diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis, they play a major role in indicating the presence of this condition. In general, these types of blood tests will measure the existence of specific antibodies that are most often found in rheumatoid arthritis, and will sometimes show inflammation, a common symptom of the condition.
Since, as mentioned, blood tests cannot serve as a single indicator for diagnosing RA, a rheumatologist’s physical examination as well as patient’s medical history will help complete the rheumatoid arthritis “puzzle”. Sometimes imaging tests will also be required to examine types of joint damage.
Rheumatoid Factor Test (RF)
The Rheumatoid factor is the first antibody identified that is found in people with rheumatoid arthritis. this antibody is produced by one’s immune system and attacks substances formed by a person’s own body. Such antibodies are also known as autoantibodies.
However, as already mentioned above, a positive RF test alone is not enough to confirm rheumatoid arthritis. Other conditions like cancer and diabetes can cause elevated RF levels as well.
And there’s even more. Even if blood tests show normal RF levels, one can still be diagnosed with RA — this condition is called seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, there is no direct correlation between RF levels and RA intensity or activity. A normal RF level is considered to be below 20 IU/mL (international units per milliliter).
Anti CCP Test
The anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide) will be most likely requested either after or alongside the RF test. Anti CCP antibodies, or rather autoantibodies, may potentially attack a person’s healthy cells, leading to inflammation.
Anti-CCP tests can more accurately diagnose RA over the RF test. Other indications of having elevated levels of anti-CCP can be joint pain, joint stiffness or joint swelling, and sometimes even low-grade fever. If we look at the entire rheumatoid arthritis, the anti-CCP autoantibody is present in 60 percent to 70 percent of the cases.
But, here as well, people with RA can still show a negative anti-CCP test. However, for those who test positive for a high presence of anti-CCP, there’s a 90 percent chance of having RA. In general, it is the consensus that the higher the anti-CCP level is, the more severe case of RA one will experience.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate Test
The ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate esr) or “sed rate” blood test can indicate inflammation. The test is a very basic one, and simply measures the speed at which red blood cells settle at the bottom of a tube. When inflammation is present, red blood cells will tend to cluster and settle at the bottom of a tube faster. As simple as it sounds.
As with other tests, an ESR test on its own, won’t indicate whether one has RA, and other tests, such will be required as well.
Other factors can also affect sed rate like pregnancy, heart disease, kidney problems, advanced age, thyroid diseases, and some types of cancer.
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Antinuclear Antibody Test
The antinuclear antibody (ANA) test measures your blood for antinuclear antibodies. Such antibodies fight the body’s own tissues. Nonetheless, many individuals without RA, especially women older than 65, test positive for ANA. Therefore, additional blood tests, like the anti-CCP test, can help better determine if you have a diagnosis of RA.
In general, ANA tests check for rheumatic diseases like lupus, as well as nonrheumatic illnesses like autoimmune liver diseases. For reference, rheumatic diseases are those conditions that involve autoimmune inflammatory diseases involving joints, muscles and bones and are grouped under the “arthritis” umbrella. Here again, is when a Rheumatologist will need to get in the picture to help determine the nature of your condition.
But What Happens If a Blood Test Is Inconclusive?
Since, as explained above, blood tests can tell a lot, but often will not tell the entire story, the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis takes into account multiple factors. These factors include a variety of blood tests, as well as the consideration of other medical factors, like genetics and physical symptoms.
In my personal case, my rheumatoid arthritis was well apparent in my blood tests (RF and anti-CCP), but sometimes, rheumatoid arthritis will not have any evidence in blood tests. This can be very deceiving and delay concrete decision-making and the decision of which treatment is the optimal one. And as we learned, any time lost in treating rheumatoid arthritis is critical since an active disease will eventually cause irreversible joint deformations.
Which Prognosis or Treatments Follow Blood Tests?
Finally, there’s a name to all that pain and discomfort you’ve been going through and a rheumatologist determined that you have rheumatoid arthritis. Traditionally, your rheumatologist starts by prescribing disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
These medications are meant to actually slow the progression of your rheumatoid arthritis and not just treat its symptoms. Such medications include Methotrexate and Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine). Other treatments for might include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and low-dose corticosteroids.
But in recent years, biological drugs (biologic response modifier) have been gradually taking the leading role in treating rheumatoid arthritis. As someone who has seen it all, I can wholeheartedly say that the biologicals are a true leap forward in the science of managing rheumatoid arthritis. As some doctors I talked to described – patients come into their offices barely able to walk and go out running and dancing.
But as a big CBD advocate, who celebrates these days 4 years without medications, I would urge you to add CBD oil/hemp oil for pain and inflammation to your doctor-recommended medication regimen. There's really no risk in giving it a try, and, who know, it might be a life changer for you, just like it was for me.