The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is divided into two overarching types: seropositive and seronegative. It is the most common diagnosis among seropositive rheumatoid arthritis patients. Being seropositive means your blood tests show the presence of antibodies that are presumed to cause rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. You can find more information below.
What is seropositive?
Seropositive is a long-term form of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that primarily affects your joints. A person with this condition has antibodies in their blood that help identify the disease. These antibodies are called anti-CCPs or rheumatoid factors (RF). One or both of these may be present. Their presence is associated with joint inflammation and the onset of RA symptoms. Seronegative RA patients do not have these antibodies, but still have the classic symptoms. Seropositive RA patients often have more severe symptoms and larger deformities.
What are the seropositive symptoms?
RA has a specific set of symptoms that may come and go over time. People with this condition will usually have positive test results (seropositive) for rheumatoid factor within a year after symptoms develop. Anti-CCPs are more sensitive and can occur years before showing any symptoms. Symptoms specific to RA include:
- Swelling and pain in the joints, especially the hands and feet
- few affected joints
- symmetrical joints
- Body stiffness in the morning lasting 45 minutes
- Deterioration of cartilage and bone (determined by X-rays)
- Development of hard lumps under the skin near the joints (rheumatoid nodules)
Some conditions have other symptoms of RA. These include:
- slight fever
- Frequent infections
- constant fatigue
When should you see a doctor?
As noted below, there is no cure for seropositive RA, but effective management of the condition ensures that many people continue to enjoy a good quality of life.
You should see your doctor as soon as you start experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms of seropositive RA, as early detection will mean less damage to your joints and slower progression of the disease with medication.
How is seropositive diagnosed?
Your blood will be tested to see if anti-CCPs or rheumatoid factors are present. If the test comes back positive (i.e. you are seropositive) there is a 70-80 percent chance of being diagnosed with RA. ( Source )
A positive result may also indicate other conditions. Therefore, a positive test is not enough for a doctor to make a full diagnosis. A full diagnosis also requires you to show symptoms of RA.
X- rays showing cartilage and bone deterioration can be helpful in reaching a full diagnosis, especially if there is joint damage (erosion). Additional blood tests may be done to test the level of inflammation in the joints.
How is seropositive treated?
As there is currently no definitive cure for this condition, treatment focuses on managing pain and inflammation and preventing further damage to the joints. In general, treatment for seropositive RA may include a combination of therapy, home care, medication, and surgery.
Expert RA therapists can help change daily habits to reduce stress on the joints. Special tools and devices are available to help with daily functioning while limiting further damage to the joints.
It is recommended that those affected by this condition exercise regularly. Exercise helps move your joints and build strength in your muscles. If you’re having a flare-up, alternating between cold and hot compresses to control pain and inflammation can help.
The most common type of medication used to help seropositive RA is a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug. Such medications can slow the development of RA and help prevent further joint damage. You can also take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to help with pain and inflammation . Steroid medications such as prednisone are also effective in managing major flare-ups of inflammation.
Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.
Surgery may be necessary when the damage to the joints is extreme. Some procedures can help increase mobility and reduce pain in severely deformed joints. Sometimes joints need to be completely replaced. However, there is the potential for complications with surgery, such as infections. Therefore, surgery is only done when the benefits outweigh the risks.
People affected by this health condition are at higher risk of developing associated conditions, especially if their condition is not well-managed. Some of the conditions associated with seropositive RA include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- widespread inflammation
- joint damage
- cardiovascular disease
- cervical myelopathy
Seropositive RA patients are likely to have more severe symptoms than seronegative ones, but this is not true in all cases. People with seropositive RA are more likely to develop rheumatoid nodules, vasculitis, and rheumatoid lung problems. They also have a higher risk of developing associated conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
Despite this, the progression of the disease varies greatly and depends on many factors. Therefore, it is impossible to predict an exact prognosis.