Many people wake up with joint pain and don't know what caused it. In a lot of cases, the joint pain will heal with at-home treatment, but for some, the joint pain is a sign of arthritis that needs medical treatment. If you have experienced joint pain for an extended period of time, it is important to seek medical attention from an expert like those at Arthritis Associates of Kingsport. Continue reading to learn more about what you can expect during the process of getting an arthritis diagnosis:
See Your Primary Care Physician
In your quest to figure out what is causing your joint pain, your first step should be to make an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she will conduct a thorough physical exam and will ask you about the symptoms that you are experiencing, your health history, and your family health history. If your doctor determines that the joint inflammation and pain is not caused by injury or other factors, such as being overweight, which can put stress on the joints, additional actions will be taken.
If your primary care physician suspects arthritis as the cause of your joint pain, he or she will most likely order one or more lab tests. You will have your blood drawn, and it will then be sent to a lab to check for inflammation markers and presence of antibodies. In addition, your blood will be analyzed to determine the overall status of your health by checking your total blood count and seeing how your organs are functioning. Depending on the severity of your joint pain and the level of inflammation, X-rays, an MRI, or an ultrasound may also be ordered.
If an examination, blood tests, and imaging determine that your joint pain is most likely caused by arthritis, your doctor will prescribe medication to help reduce inflammation and lower the amount of pain that you're experiencing. Many people with arthritis are prescribed oral corticosteroids as well as anti-rheumatic medications to help prevent permanent joint damage.
Managing Your Arthritis
A primary care physician has the skills and knowledge to diagnose arthritis, but he or she may not be able to determine the exact type of arthritis that you have. After you begin treatment for your arthritis, you will most likely be referred to a rheumatologist, a specialist who has special training in diseases of the joints. A rheumatologist may conduct more extensive tests to determine what type of arthritis you are suffering from in order to tailor a long-term treatment plan.