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Can arthritis be misdiagnosed?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2021 | Blog, Medical Malpractice |

Misdiagnosis is just as stressful and harmful in Red Bank, New Jersey, as in other places. Some diseases are more complex by having common underlining conditions that could be many other diseases. The overlapping conditions make it easier for misdiagnosis until more unique symptoms appear. Rheumatic diseases are good examples of overlapping symptoms. Many rheumatic diseases share symptoms with rheumatoid arthritis.

Self-diagnosis and self-treatment

When symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis present themselves, doctors need the medical history, symptoms, imaging studies and blood tests to learn more. With all the proper data, misdiagnosis can still occur. When people see early symptoms, they usually self-medicate at the pharmacy. Self-medicating is fine if symptoms aren’t severe, but prolonging a doctor visit can make diagnosis harder.

Why rheumatoid arthritis is hard to detect

Doctors are diagnosticians, and the best treatment requires accurate diagnosis. A person can start with their primary doctor, but a specialist may more accurately diagnose the problem. A common medical malpractice claim is misdiagnosis, but a specialist should lessen the chance of it happening. Even specialists can misdiagnose rheumatoid arthritis, and early detection is important. With rheumatoid arthritis, early detection allows treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Prolonged treatment allows further joint damage.

When a patient has rheumatoid arthritis, some symptoms make the diagnosis clear. If the patient has morning stiffness, swollen joints and a positive factor test, then the patient has rheumatoid arthritis. The challenges come when a patient doesn’t have swelling, and the markers for the disease are negative. The positive rheumatoid arthritis markers to help with a diagnosis are a rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP antibody. If those tests are negative, doctors can misdiagnose the disease.

A new diagnostic antibody test has been around since 2017 and catches some of the misdiagnosed cases. The study needs more research and isn’t available everywhere yet. People without a diagnosis can use the test. The newer test is more expensive, so it’s a last resort. Joint pain and swelling can have viral causes. If the symptoms last a few months, the diagnosis could be rheumatoid arthritis.