What is Rheumatology?
Rheumatology is the field of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that cause joint and muscle pain, including arthritis and joint diseases such as osteoarthritis but also those conditions that result from abnormal function of the immune system.
When and Why are Rheumatology Labs Ordered?
Rheumatology labs are tests that are used to help diagnose and monitor rheumatologic diseases.
They’re often ordered as part of a complete rheumatology assessment, which is performed by a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, or RA.
Rheumatology labs measure certain things in the blood, including levels of certain proteins and other substances, to help diagnose dysfunction of the immune system and high levels of inflammation in the body.
They’re also used to monitor the disease’s progression and response to treatment, such as immunomodulatory medications. These tests determine the overall burden of inflammation in the body that is the result of rheumatologic disease.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints and can affect other organs and systems in the body.
In many cases, people first become aware of RA when they develop joint pain, but the condition can also have less noticeable symptoms, such as a persistent feeling of fatigue.
Most people with RA are diagnosed through blood tests, physical exams, and imaging studies. In some cases, joint fluid tests or biopsies may also be used to diagnose RA.
The joints most affected by rheumatoid arthritis are the hands and feet although rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in the body.
It affects a specific structure in the joints - the connection of the bones to the cartilage — the synovial joints.
What are the Most Common Rheumatology Lab Tests?
Rheumatology labs measure the activity or level of dysfunction of the immune system, the presence of certain antibodies in your blood, and the level of certain inflammatory chemicals in your body.
They’re used to diagnose and monitor rheumatoid arthritis and to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-rheumatic drugs.
Most of the tests are done using a blood sample, but some are done using a sample of synovial fluid, the thick liquid that lubricates your joints.
In addition to a Complete Blood Count, here are some of the more common rheumatology lab tests a doctor may order:
CCP Antibody Test
Measures: proteins made by your body in response to inflammation
Normal Level: 0-20 u/mL
A CCP antibody test looks for cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) in your blood. CCP is an autoantibody that targets healthy joint tissue. The test is used to confirm a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and to monitor the disease’s progression and response to treatment. Over 75% of people with rheumatoid arthritis have CCP antibodies. In some cases, a CCP antibody test may be used to rule out other conditions that may be causing similar symptoms.
Measures: rheumatoid factor, a group of proteins that attack the blood component gamma globulin
Normal Level: 0-20 u/mL
A rheumatoid factor test measures the level of rheumatoid factor in your blood sample. Rheumatoid factor is usually released in greater amounts in the blood of patients with rheumatoid arthritis than in the blood of healthy individuals.
Antinuclear Antibody (ANA)
Measures: the presence of abnormal antibodies that attack a cell’s nucleus
Normal Level: 1:40 dilution
An ANA test looks for certain abnormal antibodies in your blood, which can suggest a range of autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
Measures: a protein made by your liver in response to inflammation
Normal Level: 0-10 mg/L
A CRP test indicates your levels of body-wide inflammation, which can help your doctor to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. High levels of CRP in your blood can indicate an autoimmune disorder or a severe infection.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
Measures: how fast your red blood cells clump together and settle, also known as a “sed rate”
Normal Level: 0-30 mm/h
Knowing your ESR can help your doctor tell if you are experiencing inflammation. If your blood settles at a higher than normal rate, it is a strong indicator of inflammation, which could be due to an immune disorder, chronic disease, or other medical condition.
Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) Tissue Typing
Measures: a genetic marker called human leukocyte antigen (HLA)
The presence of these particular genetic markers can indicate a higher likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
This test can also help to confirm a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis or reactive arthritis.
What Makes Southwest Florida Rheumatology Lab Services Special?
Southwest Florida Rheumatology is the premier provider of advanced rheumatology lab testing in the area.
Doctors at Southwest Florida Rheumatology use the most advanced methods available to detect the presence of certain antibodies in the blood, to determine the level of inflammation in the body and even to determine whether you are more or less likely to respond to a specific treatment!
They can then use this detailed information to tailor a treatment plan for you.
Here are just three of the cutting-edge rheumatology tests that we offer at Southwest Florida Rheumatology in addition to the commonly available tests:
Measures: 12 different biomarkers
A VECTRA test uses the latest technology to measure 12 biomarkers in conjunction with your age and other factors. The data is then used to produce a multi-biomarker disease assay, indicating how active your rheumatoid arthritis is.
Measures: your molecular signature
Measures: positive antinuclear antibodies (ANA)
AVISE® CTD helps doctors diagnose lupus and other autoimmune diseases — such as rheumatoid arthritis. The test is used to determine whether you have lupus or similar autoimmune diseases, and the assessment of overlapping symptoms.
Book Your Rheumatology Labs
Rheumatology is an exciting field, but it’s also incredibly complex. To effectively diagnose and manage rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, you need to get your labs done in a facility that utilizes the most advanced technology to provide reliable results.
That’s why Southwest Florida Rheumatology is proud to be the gold standard of rheumatology testing. We strive to provide the most accurate and detailed test results, so you can get the most out of your care.
Get in touch today to find out more about our rheumatology labs.