A healthy body starts with a healthy immune system. The antibodies coursing through the blood stream are a large part of the immune system and perform tasks like fighting infections and expediting the healing process. The effectiveness of the antibodies becomes compromised when a body has high levels of rheumatoid factor, commonly known as RF levels, present in the bloodstream. The RF can make it more difficult for the body to fight disease or other invasive substances.
Rheumatoid factors are antibodies with deceptive personalities. They exist to tear down the effectiveness of the immune system. RF tends to bind itself to healthy antibodies. This deceives the rest of the immune system into perceiving the bound antibodies as potential threats which must be destroyed. In effect, the body actually starts to attack itself. RF is drawn to the soft tissue of the body and targets the tissues in and around the joints which causes both joint and tissue damage.
There is a test that can be run to determine the RF level in the bloodstream. These test results are often used as indicators of some very serious conditions. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is the most common disease associated with elevated RF levels through not the only one. Lupus and liver disease can also be diagnosed with the help of an RF level test. The test can also help determine if a person has contracted an infectious disease such as tuberculosis, hepatitis or syphilis.
People with a family history of various Rheumatic conditions, including RA, can benefit from testing the RF levels in their blood. The tests could give an early enough warning of the disease onset that preventative treatment could be administered. The test may also indicate how advanced the disease has become. While helpful, the RF levels are not the only factor used to diagnose a disease.
Not everyone shows RF levels in a way that is helpful to physicians. For instance, only about eighty percent of adults with RA will have elevated RF levels, and even fewer children will show any. Some people who are afflicted with an autoimmune disease will have little to no RF levels in their bloodstream at all. The inconsistency makes it imperative that doctors consider all the symptoms before making a diagnosis of autoimmune disease based on RF level tests.
In an individual with a normal, healthy immune system, RF is usually not present at all. Occasionally a perfectly healthy person will return test results with some RF level present though they have no disease. This is most common in healthy people who have family members with RA since it is often suspected to be a hereditary disease that may skip several generations.
Rheumatoid lung disease and Rheumatoid nodules are two examples of additional rheumatic disease conditions that are not related to joint damage and may occur in people with elevated levels of RF. The nodules are not usually fatal but can be painful. They vary in size and develop just below the skin, usually near damaged joints. The lung disease, however, is a silent threat. It commonly shows no symptoms until damage to the lung has already been done.
Determining the rheumatoid factor in the bloodstream can help physicians make proper determinations on whether or not a patient has a rheumatic or infectious disease. Though false readings are sometimes received, these tests are very useful. Elevated RF levels could indicate several serious conditions.
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