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Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis may be difficult in the early stages, because symptoms may be very subtle and go undetected on X-rays or blood tests. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for rheumatoid arthritis may include the following:
Joint aspiration - Involves a removal of fluid from the swollen bursa to exclude infection or gout as possible causes
Biopsy (of nodules tissue) - A procedure in which tissue samples are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope; to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present
Blood tests - To detect certain antibodies, called rheumatoid factor, and other indicators for rheumatoid arthritis