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Get the Most Out of Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Appointment

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Rheumatoid Arthritis related image Photo: Getty Images

You are the only person who knows how your symptoms feel, what aggravates your joints, what times are the worst or which movements hurt more than others. So get in the driver's seat at your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) appointments and lead the discussion!

How to get started?

I like to keep a diary of how I am feeling. You know how artists usually mention that their best work comes from sad or lovesick times, the same goes with an RA diary! We pay the closest attention when we aren’t feeling our best. Start to write down specifics in a diary: the date, time, what joint(s) hurt, how they are feeling… I like to go a bit further and note what activities I was doing in the past 24+ hours and foods I ate that may have caused the discomfort. Are you stressed? Do you have a cold? Have you been taking your medicine and/or vitamins regularly? Try to take this time to analyze your RA, be your own detective and write down your thoughts along the way. Bring this journal to your next appointment with flags of major RA flares; you and your rheumatologist may find some similar trends. In the long run, your doctor may be able to customize your treatment to meet the needs of your specific arthritis.

What to bring?

We all know that physician appointments are expensive, so make the most out of your time. Come prepared with a checklist of your top priorities to discuss, so this time when the doctor asks if you have any questions, the answer is yes! Maybe you’ve been feeling a lot of relief and you want to discuss the possibilities of reducing the dose of a medication. Or perhaps, you are interested in some non-pharmacologic (non-medication) therapies he/she has seen to be beneficial in helping relieve RA symptoms (gluten-free diet, vegetarian/low animal fat diet, yoga, swimming, omega 3’s, etc.). If you have been experiencing a lot of active joint pain, it might be time to discuss an alternate medication therapy. Prioritize your topics and speak up with what matters to you the most first.

At the appointment

When speaking to your doctor, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t understand.” If interested, ask for additional resources to get a better understanding of your condition. Also, if you feel comfortable it may be beneficial to bring a loved one or family member to the appointment. Four ears are better than two! Also, having someone close to you grasp a better understanding of your condition can be a huge support. In addition, the extra person in the room can write down notes the physician says while you stay fully involved in conversation.

In theory, this all sounds doable. For many of us, RA can be modified by our own efforts and actions. It starts with making choices, and then following through with the decisions we make. Start taking control of this disease, one decision at a time.

Claire is a Registered Nurse, recently graduated from Arizona State University. She currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her dog Bella.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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