The short answer to your question is "Yes"!
I am RA negative by blood tests, and yes, you can indeed have RA without conclusive blood results. There are other factors that a good rheumatologist take into consideration that can lead to the diagnosis, including a physical examination and medical history.
This is called a clinical diagnosis, and one dictionary definition for this is "a diagnosis made on the basis of knowledge obtained by medical history and physical examination alone, without benefit of laboratory tests or x-ray films".
There are many people on here that are RA Negative (that shows no RA Factor in the bloodwork)! I was diagnosed by clinical diagnosis as I have no RA Factor. But my bloodwork results did show inflammation, which led my GP to send me straight to the specialist Rheumatologist!! I think that perhaps the only benefit of an RA Factor in the blood means probably a quicker diagnosis for some. There are a lot of types of arthritis that can show similar symptoms, so can sometimes take a bit of sifting through.
If he does diagnose RA, I would hope that a good RA would get him started on something that will at least reduce inflammation and his pain levels quickly, while working on finding the drug mix that is going to help prevent damage. I was started off on a high dose of Prednisone, for the pain and inflammation- with Methotrexate, Placquenil & Folic Acid. The Methotrexate takes usually 6-8 weeks to kick in, and then the Spec. began slowly reducing the Prednisone dosage. (A different diagnosis from RA though, would probably mean a different drug regime - but I don't know what that would be). But they do know their stuff!
With RA, the pain is the same, usually bilateral, the damage can be the same, and the treatment plan the same, whether RA Positive or Negative. Each treatment plan, drugs etc, is individualised, the same drugs do not suit everybody, so sometimes it can be a matter of trial & error until the right mix is found.
And yes, swelling around the joints can definitely indicate RA. I hope that you are able to get a better picture and get some answers for your husband from your new specialist. Roll on your next appt!!
Good idea to keep a record of everything thats happening for him over those weeks until your appt, diarise pain on a scale of 1-10 perhaps, morning stiffness times, any little thing that is giving him a problem.. And any questions! Take it with you to the appt, it's amazing how much we forget to tell them when we finally get there! A good Rheumatologist will ask you the right questions, and will listen!!
I'm sure others will add to this, we've all been there! All the best, and keep us posted!!
Edited by Kiwilass2 - 12 April 2011 at 11:15pm