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Getting a diagnosis

About 14 years ago, a doctor had xrays of my spine taken as I was experiencing back pain, and he said it looked like I had arthritis in my spine. Nothing about that was written in my chart and I kind of forgot about it since i would rarely see doctors as doctors haven't been very helpful in my experience.

This past winter, I had horrible pain in my toes and noticed that my toes were all hugely swollen. The pain got so bad that walking is difficult. My regular doctor suspected it could be psoriatic arthritis and he gave me a referral to a rheumatologist.

I have the rheumatologist appointment scheduled for three days from now and want to be sure what I'm getting myself into. I worry about the costs associated with trying to get this diagnosed, because insurance in the United States is terrible, and they will rip you off any way they can. I'm assuming xrays would likely be covered by insurance but I'm guessing something like an MRI would not be fully covered and could potentially be a huge out of pocket expense.

For those who received a diagnosis of arthritis, how were you diagnosed? Was an MRI necessary? Was it hugely expensive with several doctor visits needed to get to a diagnosis? I know I should put my health first, but I just got most of my debts paid off this year after working hard to do that for the past 10 years. I worry about accumulating a bunch of debt now due to trying to get my arthritis diagnosed. Any information on this would be helpful.

Also, one of the reasons I would like a diagnosis is, if I ever get to the point where going into work is too difficult (which seems possible since currently just walking around in my house is difficult), I want to have a diagnosis to support any disability claims. For those who have claimed disability, was this very difficult to do? Were you required to take prescription medications in order to qualify for the disability? Most of the drugs prescribed for psoriatic arthritis are so toxic and have such bad side effects (from what I've read) that I would be scared to take them, but I don't know if you would be required to take them before I could legally claim disability.

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks.

  1. My diagnosis came in the early 90's, but I can't imagine the tests are that different today. I was fortunate to have a highly regarded rheumatologist who diagnosed me. He did blood work; I can't recall xrays. I did NOT have an MRI. His exam included observing the joints. He was big on "if it looks like a duck....."

    Good luck.

    1. I was Dx'd in 2000 and I also do not believe things are much different. I did not have X'rays but did have several blood tests. I found that my Dx was fairly straight forward. I hope if needed it is for you as well. Given your description the doctor may discuss ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis or just as likely no arthritis at all.


      I wish you the very best.

      1. Hi . Sorry you are struggling with these foot issues. I can't personally speak to a diagnosis, but this article from our editorial team discusses the diagnostic process: You will notice that it mentions the potential for an MRI, but, as the others have said, this is not necessarily the case. My wife, Kelly Mack (a contributor here) has had juvenile RA for over 40 years and has never had an MRI. Hopefully you can get a diagnosis (whatever it may be) and treatment that brings your issues under control, but in regards to disability, this article from our contributor Mariah discusses the application process: Please feel free, if you like, to keep us posted on how you are doing. Wishing you the best. Richard ( Team)

        1. Thank you all very much! Your responses have been very helpful.

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