According to a study published in Journal Arthritis and Rheumatology, Chikungunya might often be misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis as both the conditions have similar symptoms.
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne disease which is quite prevalent in India, Africa, South and Central America, and the Caribbean countries. However, its symptoms are like those seen in cases of rheumatoid arthritis such as joint pains and swellings. The research shows why it is important for medical doctors to get the medical and travel histories of patients so that they can easily identify the two of the ailments manifesting through the given symptoms.
According to the researchers, “For now, good travel histories of patients are among the best diagnostic tools for physicians. Recent travel to the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, India or other areas where the virus is prevalent should raise suspicions of Chikungunya infection.”
Apart from understanding cases of chikungunya from the perspective of travel history, the disease can also be differentiated from rheumatoid arthritis by symptoms like high fever and sudden onset of severe pain in the joints. These symptoms are not often seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
The study involved, ten individuals who were infected with chikungunya when they traveled to Haiti in June 2014 and these were monitored for seven to 10 weeks after they started exhibiting symptoms. Eight of them developed arthritis and severe joint pain and could not really walk for some time. However, the researchers also examined healthy subjects and newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis patients who had not yet been given treatments.
The researchers performed highly specialised tests of the subject’s immune system to identify chikungunya. These tests are only available at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as in research labs.
while the fever and rash occasioned by chikungunya amidst other symptoms can last for several days, the severe joint pain can last for as long as a year. But then, it might be difficult to actually differentiate chikungunya from rheumatoid arthritis at the very early stage because their symptoms are very similar.
The lead author for the study, Deborah Lenschow, advised that it is better to develop improved tools for early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment since the chikungunya virus might soon spread to the United States.
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