Looking for advice


I'm just wondering how an RA diagnosis is confirmed? How can you tell you definitely have it and you haven't been misdiagnosed? Will an MRI confirm it?

My mother was diagnosed about 10 years ago. She has never had an MRI.

First she was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease and then came the RA diagnosis.

She was on various medications for a while and then they put her on sulfasalazine for years. Two years ago she got ovarian cancer and her oncologist wanted her off the drug because of the risk of covid. My mother had successful treatment for cancer and didn't experience any arthritis flare-ups. However, since she started a parp inhibitor called Niriparib she has had a lot of joint pain and sometimes her hands swell up. Joint swelling can be a side effect of Niriparib. However, they have decided it's caused by arthritis and want to put her back on sulfasalazine. I guess I wonder how they know it's an arthritis flare-up and how do they know she definitely has RA?


  • Ellen
    Ellen Moderator Posts: 1,409

    Good morning @amco46 Welcome to the Online Community.

    I see from your post that you are here querying your Mother's diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

    I am going to attach a couple of links which might help you understand:

    This one is about investigations and what various tests tell healthcare professionals:

    This one is about Rheumatoid Arthritis itself and explains how it can appear to come and go or 'flare':

    I also just want to say I am very pleased to hear your Mother's cancer has been treated successfully.

    Best wishes


    Need more help? - call our Helpline on 0800 5200 520 Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm

  • amco46
    amco46 Member Posts: 3


    Thank you for the information. I am going to read through it.

    My mother also has Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. I have read that this can cause similar symptoms to RA. How can the two diseases be differentiated? For example, she is on medication for her thyroid and for her RA, but her hands and feet still swell up. Is the RA causing the swelling or is it a Hashimoto's symptom?

  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 27,551

    I think these are questions you need to put to your mother's consultants.

    Just for the record, MRIs are just one tool in diagnosing RA and, I suspect, not often used as they are so expensive. There are several other ways which would take priority. In 60+ years of RA I've never had an MRI for it.

    Unfortunately, autoimmune diseases can often come in twos or threes. I have asthma as well as RA.

    As for your mother's RA being quiet while she was being treated for ovarian cancer - if the treatment involved chemo that would usually contain high levels of methotrexate, a DMARD which many of us take in much lower quantities for RA. I had breast cancer about 25 years ago and was surprised at how good my RA was while I was on chemo. It was only later that I began taking methotrexate for the RA.

    Definitely worth asking the consultants, though, as they are the experts.

    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you.
    Steven Wright
  • airwave
    airwave Member Posts: 579

    I suppose an easy answer to how do doctors diagnose is because they are allowed to specialise and become experts in their chosen fields and along with the knowledge come practical experience on top of the multiple methods and tools to help them diagnose.

    its a grin, honest!