The field of rheumatology is broad and treats many different diseases and disorders. While most people think of rheumatoid arthritis, a rheumatologist can also treat disorders like lupus, osteoarthritis, gout, fibromyalgia, scleroderma, and ankylosing spondylitis, to name a few. In order to diagnose all of these disorders in their patients, most rheumatologists have several different ways of testing for disorders in their office. A few of the tools that may help with diagnostics in your rheumatologist's office include the following.
There are several different blood tests that can be done to diagnose specific autoimmune disorders. Depending on what your doctor may suspect, you could be tested for genetic factors, signs of infection, or even specific antibodies. It is amazing what you can find out about somebody by doing a specific blood test.
Nerve Conduction Studies
A nerve conduction study is usually done when your rheumatologist suspects nerve damage. To conduct the study, electrodes are placed on specific locations on the body, and then an electric current is sent through a specific nerve. The nerve conduction machine times how long it takes for the impulse to get from one electrode to another, thus testing how reactive your nerves are. If the time is slower than normal, you may have a physical anomaly or disorder which affects your nerves, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
An X-ray is a really useful tool when trying to determine exactly what is going on behind the scenes. For example, someone with osteoarthritis may not be aware of how much their anatomy has changed over time due to the disease. X-rays can help your doctor to know exactly how much damage has been done, as well as tracking how treatments are helping.
Bone Density Scans
Some disorders affect not only bone structure but density as well. Osteoporosis, for example, is an autoimmune disease where bones start to break down and become brittle. A bone density scanner can measure the density of specific bones, as well as giving a frailty measurement. This measurement is called a T score. People with a low T score are likely to break a bone.
In conclusion, each of these diagnostic tests can be used to help your rheumatologist diagnose and treat whatever you are dealing with. During your initial visit, you may have one or more tests done, so plan on being at the office for 1-2 hours. Your doctor's office can give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your visit.
To learn more, contact a resource like Sarasota Arthritis Center.