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New rheumatoid arthritis test is good news

New rheumatoid arthritis test is good news

By Christopher Coyne

An estimated 1.5 million adults suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in the United States. It's a condition that significantly compromises quality of life, and can increase the risk of premature death. In the past, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was that too often it was detected after the disease had already progressed to a stage where joint damage was occurring.

RA is an aggressive disease that can cause serious problems if gone unchecked. Earlier this year Quest Diagnostics, a provider of medical diagnostic information services, announced the availability of two blood tests for aiding the early diagnosis of RA. To explain the significance of this announcement, we'll first try to explain the disease and why early detection is vital.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, involves the wearing away of the cartilage that caps the bones in your joints. With rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial membrane that protects and lubricates joints becomes inflamed, causing pain and swelling. Joint erosion may follow. The main difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is the cause behind the joint symptoms.

Osteoarthritis is caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune system attacks the joints. Although the two types of arthritis share some similar characteristics, each has different symptoms and requires different treatment. Therefore, an accurate diagnosis is important.

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Part of the reason rheumatoid arthritis is so often detected late, is that patients tend to dismiss their daily aches and pains as just consequences of getting older; and they delay getting checked or treated. Once a doctor has diagnosed RA, the joint damage may be too far advanced to arrest. One of the most common symptoms of RA is the presence of swollen joints, especially if three of more are affected, particularly in the wrist joints or large knuckles. If a doctor suspects RA, he or she will typically refer the patient to a specialist to determine treatment.

Once a diagnosis is made, timely intervention is the key. Lab tests will be done and repeated due to potential medical toxicity. This is one reason why the new blood tests available from Quest Diagnostics can be so valuable. They allow physicians to detect the disease earlier and make more informed treatment decisions.

"(These) have significant potential to help physicians identify early stage RA, when treatment can often arrest further disease progression and disability" said Stanley J. Naides, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.R., medical director, Immunology R&D, Quest Diagnostics.

"We believe they are superb examples of the potential of diagnostic insights to promote better outcomes through earlier diagnosis and treatment".

With rheumatoid arthritis, early detection is paramount to properly treat this potentially devastating disease. These new blood tests are important tools for physicians and good news for patients.


Quest Diagnostics
345 Harry L Drive
Johnson City, NY