• Talking to Your Doctor About Rheumatoid Arthritis

    You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with rheumatoid arthritis. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

    General Tips for Gathering Information

    Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:
    • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and ask questions you may not have thought of.
    • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
    • Write down the answers you get, and ask for clarification if necessary.
    • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or to ask for more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

    Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

    About Rheumatoid Arthritis
    • Do my symptoms suggest that I have rheumatoid arthritis?
    • Could these symptoms be caused by any other joint diseases?
    • Do you feel that I need any other diagnostic tests?
    • What should I tell my children about their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis?
    About Treatment Options
    • When can I expect to feel improvement from the treatment?
    • What comfort measures (such as heat or cold) might be helpful?
    • What medications can I take to reduce pain and improve my ability to function normally?
    • What side effects do these medications have?
    • Should I consider other treatments, such as apheresis?
    • Is my rheumatoid arthritis so advanced that I should consider any surgical procedures?
    • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that may help me?
    About Lifestyle Changes
    • What kinds of exercise should I do to increase my muscle strength?
    • Are there exercises or athletic activities that I should avoid because they overly stress my joints?
    • Could my occupation be contributing to my joint disease and symptoms?
    • How much rest should I get?
    • Are there any assistive devices that might help me continue to function independently?
    About Outlook
    • What is the usual progression of rheumatoid arthritis?
    • How can I slow or halt the progression of rheumatoid arthritis?
    • Do I have to give up or change any of my activities now or in the future?

    References

    Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/ .

    Ferri F, ed. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2010 . 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009.

    Firestein ED, et al. Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology . 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2008.

    Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Internal Medicine . 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2008.

    National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .

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