Rheumatoid Arthritis Biomarkers
Physical symptoms have always played a major role in a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, but there are other signs of the disease that can hide under the skin. Since early, targeted treatment is crucial to slow the progression of the disease, biomarkers can be the keys to comfort and mobility for those living with rheumatoid arthritis.
Biomarkers are characteristics of a particular system in the body that can be measured to determine whether or not a disease is present. In many cases, a simple blood test will reveal important proteins, and together with clinical observation of symptoms, a physician can use them to draw a more accurate picture of an RA patient’s state of health.
How Biomarkers Help a Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis
Certain proteins that show up in the blood of an RA sufferer can confirm a diagnosis and help your doctor quickly create an aggressive treatment plan. Some common RA biomarkers include:
- Rheumatoid factor (RF). These are proteins in the immune system that attack healthy tissue.
- C-reactive protein (CRP). A protein produced by the liver that increases when there is inflammation throughout the body.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed rate). This test measures how fast blood cells settle, and can uncover a variety of autoimmune diseases and infection.
While certain biomarkers can be helpful when testing for RA, they might not be enough. The problem is that these markers can also point to other diseases, which means there is a risk of misdiagnosis or a delay in treatment. Fortunately, researchers have discovered some new biomarkers that are more specific to rheumatoid arthritis, which promises more targeted and personalized treatment for sufferers than ever before.
New Biomarkers for RA
Research into possible biomarkers for RA is ongoing, but there have been some significant advances in recent years. Some promising new biomarker tests include:
- Polyglutamate testing: This test measures how the cells are responding to methotrexate, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for rheumatoid arthritis. Since this test is administered well before the effects of methotrexate manifest, your doctor can determine if the drug is working well or if other drugs would work better for you.
- Vectra DA test. This test looks for 12 major biomarkers of rheumatoid arthritis simultaneously, which helps to monitor the progression of the disease and quickly determine when and how a treatment plan may need to be changed.
- Anti-MCV test. Rheumatoid arthritis produces antibodies to mutated citrullinated vimentin (MCV), and this blood test will find them long before symptoms of RA present themselves. Along with some other blood tests for other biomarkers, this test proves to be very helpful for early RA diagnosis.
Biomarker tests can help to pinpoint rheumatoid arthritis, but they can also be used during treatment to see how well your drugs are working before you can see for yourself. Instead of waiting a few months for results, your physician can assess (and adjust) your treatment plan in just a few weeks, which makes an enormous difference when daily pain and decreasing mobility threatens your lifestyle.