The Rheumatoid Factor Test

The rheumatoid factor blood test (RF) helps diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). It measures rheumatoid factor, a chemical in the blood of many, but not all, people with RA. By itself, it does NOT show whether you have rheumatoid arthritis or not.
The Rheumatoid Factor Test gives your doctor more information to consider when diagnosing your condition, it does not necessarily mean you have RA. It is used along with your physical exam, other tests, and your symptoms to help diagnose your condition.  

People with other autoimmune conditions, such as lupus and Sjogren's syndrome, can also have a positive Rheumatoid Factor. So can people with infections such as hepatitis and mononucleosis. 

False positives occur in 5% of healthy individuals and in up to 20% of people over 65 years of age. False positives also occur in inflammatory condition such as Sjögren's Syndrome, Lupus and Systemic Sclerosis.

Some healthy people can have rheumatoid factor in their blood too. Also some people with RA don’t have a positive RA result. That’s why this test will not,

The higher the level in rheumatoid disease the worse the joint destruction and the greater the chance of systemic involvement.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal result means the test is positive, which means higher levels of rheumatoid factor have been detected in your blood. The higher the level, the more likely one of these conditions is present. There are also other tests for these disorders that help make the diagnosis.
People with the following diseases may also have high levels of rheumatoid factor:
Other blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis:
  • erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • anti-CCP (anit-cyclic citrullinated peptide) 

  1. Wilson D; Rheumatoid factors in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Can Family Physician. 
  2. Longmore M, Wilkinson IB & Rajagopalan SR; Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine, 2004
  3. MedlinePlus 
  4. WebMD


What is polyarthritis?


  • It is any type of arthritis which involves 5 or more joints simultaneously
  •  It is usually associated with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, amyloidosis, psoriatic arthritis, and lupus erythematosus.
  • It may be experienced at any age
  • It is found in both men and women
  • It can also be caused by infection with an alphavirus such as chikungunya virus and Ross River virus. This condition is termed alphavirus polyarthritis syndrome.
Polyarthritis for medical professionals:

MEDICAL ARTICLE: Inflammatory Polyarthritis in the Older Adult

Preventing rheumatoid arthritis

Some people have recently asked if rheumatoid arthritis can be prevented. Until the cause is understood it may be difficult to stop it.  Some factors do increase your risk of getting it and they include your gender, genetics and age but none of these factors can be controlled. Environmental factors are also thought to be a factor in the development of RA and I suppose they can be controlled to some degree.
Genetics certainly is a complex area and the genetics of rheumatoid arthritis are complex. "The genetic component of RA is widely investigated: the strongest gene association is considered to be the one with the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region, particularly the HLA-DRB1 genes accounting for about two-thirds of the genetics of RA." Arthritis research & therapy

There is one thing that has been shown to increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, that can be controlled, and that is smoking.  Recently, it has been reported that smoking is involved in the development of many autoimmune diseases such as RA,  Lupus, Systemic sclerosis, Multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease.

RESOURCES: Rheumatoid arthritis and smoking: putting the pieces together
Zsuzsanna Baka, Edit Buzás and György Nagy


Refined Sugars and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Excessive consumption of refined sugars, including white sugar, brown sugar and corn syrup, may increase the acidity of the body. Some natural health practitioners have recommended that refined sugar be avoided in cases of inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis. Substitution with natural sugar alternatives such as stevia, agave nectar, fruit juice concentrates and honey may help to reduce inflammatory processes. An overall reduction of any type of sugar can also be recommended to avoid rapid increases in blood sugar, which may interfere with inflammatory processes.

Many people feel that their pain is reduced if they cut out sugar altogether. Have you experimented with this? I found it difficult to do at first but well worth the reduction in pain especially in my fingers, wrists and ankles. I recommend the following program which gives you online support...

                                                  The 21-Day Sugar Detox


Risk of getting Rheumatoid Arthritis involves gene regulators

The kind of DNA once known as “junk” may influence people’s risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study that offers the latest look at the complex system of switches that turn disease genes on.

Using genetic information from more than 300 people with rheumatoid arthritis and another 300 without, the researchers found 10 areas that appeared to influence risk, according to the research published yesterday in the journal Nature Biotechnology. 

Read full story at Bloomberg


Pacing and chronic pain

Pacing is learning to find the right balance between spending time on an activity without pushing yourself so that it significantly worsens your pain. Pacing is the opposite to just pushing through and finishing an activity and then being in so much pain the next day that you cannot cope with anything at all. It is about breaking activities up into small increments. It is about definately stopping when you start to feel pain or increased pain, depending on your situation. Pacing can help prevent flare ups and keep you mobile. Some people who are trying to pace themselves find it useful to set a time limit and also a rest time or a change of activity.

Here is a site that has helpful worksheets that can help you with pacing: PSYCHOLOGY TODAY

Pacing: Balancing activity and rest PDF Download from
Pacing instructions with worked examples PDF Download from Cambridge Univeristy Hospital
Pain management diary PDF Download from
The Pain Toolkit -  for people who live with persistent pain PDF Download from


More information on arthritis

For more information on arthritis and related conditions, contact any of the following organizations:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)Information ClearinghouseNational Institutes of Health
1 AMS CircleBethesda, MD.
The NIAMS, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), leads the Federal Government research effort in arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases in the United States. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse is a public service sponsored by the NIAMS.

Arthritis Foundation
P.O. Box 7669 Atlanta, GA .
The Arthritis Foundation is the major voluntary organization devoted to supporting arthritis research and providing education and other services to people with arthritis. This foundation publishes free pamphlets on arthritis, as well as arthritis self-help books in English and Spanish.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
P.O. Box 2058 Des Plaines, IL.
The academy provides education and self-help services for orthopaedic surgeons (doctors) and other health providers. It supports improved patient care and informs the public about the science of orthopaedics (bone and joint health).

American College of Rheumatology (ACR)
1800 Century Place, Suite 250Atlanta, GA .
This group provides referrals to doctors and health professionals who work on arthritis, rheumatic diseases, and related conditions. It also provides educational materials and guidelines.


Everyday coping with arthritis and chronic pain:pacing

rheumatoid arthritis coping ideas
This is not an illness that is managed easily for me. There is no magic pill, no prescription for complete healing. There are ways to manage it and gain some of your old life and laughter back. I can't tell you how to do it. I can only tell you what works for me. I still have my bad days, but some days, most days, now are good.
I have taken on board a lot of information from many books, blogs and specialists but implementing them is another thing. Probably the thing that has helped me most (besides pain killers) is pacing myself and by that I mean no matter what I am doing, if I feel pain I stop and change to a different activity. This means the dishwasher may be half unpacked on the washing not hung out but I will come back to it later. It also means, for me, taking frequent short rests flat on my back.
Ha Ha! my wrists are starting to ache right now so I will finish this post later...maybe.