Your doctor will determine if you have RA by performing a physical examination as well as looking at the results of blood tests and X-rays. A diagnosis of RA may be made if 4 or more of the factors below are present (the first 4 factors must be present for at least 6 weeks):

  1. morning stiffness in and around joints lasting at least 1 hour before you are able to move around normally
  2. soft tissue swelling of 3 or more joint areas as determined by a doctor
  3. swelling in the joints of the fingers and wrists
  4. joint swelling of arthritis that occurs symmetrically (i.e., on both knees, both wrists, or other joints)
  5. large bumps or cysts (known as subcutaneous nodules or rheumatoid nodules) that appear under the skin, usually where there isn't much tissue on the bone (e.g., the elbows)
  6. a positive blood test for a substance called rheumatoid factor (RF)
  7. changes in X-rays that suggest arthritic changes in joints of the hands or wrists.