Medical history and physical examination for rheumatoid arthritis

Exam Overview

Your medical history and current medical condition are important factors that help your health professional diagnose and/or evaluate rheumatoid arthritis. To assess your medical history, your health professional may ask:

  • How long symptoms have been present and whether there has been any pattern to them.
  • Whether there is a family history of arthritis.
  • Whether there are any other general symptoms (fatigue, weight loss, fever).
  • Whether there has been any recent or past injury to the affected joints.
  • How symptoms have affected your daily activities of living, driving, and working.

During the physical examination, your health professional may look at, feel, and move each joint and evaluate it for:

  • Swelling, warmth, and tenderness.
  • Presence of fluid on the joint.
  • Range of motion.
  • Joints that are affected.
  • The presence of bumps (rheumatoid nodules) over pressure points in the body.

During the examination, your health professional may also do a routine evaluation of the lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys.

Why It Is Done

The medical history and physical examination are routine parts of any medical evaluation.

Results

Important findings in the physical examination include the:

  • Pattern of symptoms in the affected joints.
  • Presence of swelling or tenderness in the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis often causes painful, swollen, "hot" joints and often affects the same joints on both sides of the body. Your health professional will note the location of affected joints, as well as other symptoms, to determine whether your condition meets the criteria for a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

What To Think About

Physical findings are an important part of the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and are also used to evaluate the success of treatment.

Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.

Last Updated: August 18, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.