Person examining an x-ray of their spine and pelvis area

Going For An X-Ray? Here’s What To Expect

First off, do you know what an x-ray is? This is something that has been around for years. X-rays look inside the body without having a doctor cut you. So much can be determined by an x-ray. It can help you diagnose and treat what issues you are having.

Can an x-ray determine psoriatic arthritis?

It took me 25 years before a doctor suggested I get an x-ray to determine if I have psoriatic arthritis. Getting an x-ray doesn’t get you a diagnosis but it helps your doctor take a closer look at what might be going on inside the body.

Perhaps you are beginning to experience some symptoms of pain, stiffness in your joint, nail separation from the bed, swollen fingers, and toes. Many experts are saying that x-rays sometimes cannot show signs of psoriatic arthritis because you can’t see changes to the bones.

What are the benefits of an x-ray?

The longer you have psoriatic arthritis the more visible signs you can see signs of damage. An x-ray can reveal two important details: The extent of damage done to your joints and bones and how your joints or bones are responding to treatment.

Regarding your joints and bones, early signs of PsA first target the soft tissues in your body and only progress to your joints and bones in the later stages. X-rays cannot pick up on changes to your soft tissues so it would be hard for your doctor to diagnose early-stage PsA solely from an x-ray. Nevertheless, if damage to your joints or bones can already be identified, please be prepared to find out you have had PsA for a while.

If you're on treatment, you know there is still no cure for this disease yet. I know that the medication I’m on is slowing the progress of PsA. My doctor recommends I get x-rays to see if my treatment plan is working. He looks for any affected joints and compares them to previous x-rays. This will help him to figure out what to do next.

How can I prepare for an x-ray?

Generally, an x-ray is a short and painless procedure that requires little to no preparation on your side. If anything at all, these tips should help enhance your experience and bring you greater peace of mind:

Pregnancy: It is important that you inform your doctor if you are pregnant. While the risk of radiation exposure to a fetus is small, it should be minimized as far as possible.

Dress comfortably: Depending on which area of your body you will be getting an x-ray for, you might be asked to remove your clothing and put on a dressing gown instead. Wearing something comfortable and easy for you to slip in and out of simply makes the entire changing process more convenient. Otherwise, ensure that your clothing has no metal features such as zips, buckles, or buttons. Avoid wearing jewelry too as you will be asked to remove them.

Ask for a protective shield: According to Harvard Health Publishing, we’re exposed to about 3.7 mSv of natural radiation each year (the equivalent of 10,000 x-rays) from natural elements including our bodies. So just remember that one x-ray procedure is more likely not going any amount of damage on you. However, if you would still like to remain cautious, you may ask your doctor if a protective shield is available.

Can I get an x-ray?

X-rays aren’t always useful in diagnosing early-stage psoriatic arthritis. As the disease progresses, your doctor may use imaging tests to see changes in the joints that are characteristic of this type of arthritis.

Of course, if you want a better understanding of how x-rays work or would like to get an x-ray, just speak to the professional – your doctor.

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