Why you should see a rheumatologist
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL
DEFINITIONRange of motion:
The full movement potential of a joint, usually its range of flexion and extension.
While you may be seeing a family doctor/GP, the effect of rheumatoid arthritis varies from person to person and requires a series of specialized diagnostic tests to be identified. A rheumatologist is experienced in the work-up necessary to identify the disease causing your pain and swelling.
Already diagnosed? If you've already been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis you can still benefit by seeing a rheumatologist. A specialist will be able to assess your RA and overall condition in more detail than your family doctor/GP. He or she may also provide alternative options for treatment.
What makes rheumatologists different from
Rheumatologists are specialized in diagnosing and treating more than 100 types of arthritic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. They can — and often do — work with family doctors/GPs as consultants to advise and share their expertise regarding diagnosis and treatment of these diseases. After 4 years of medical school and 3 years of preparation in internal medicine, rheumatologists devote an additional 2 to 3 years in rheumatology-specific training.
What to take to an appointment
A proactive approach and a thoughtful, detailed history play a critical role in determining the nature of your symptoms. Be prepared to fill out a medical history that includes the names, dosages, and schedules of the medications you are already taking or have taken in the past. You may find the rheumatologist pressed for time, so jot down a list of questions you would like answered before your appointment is over.
- How can I tell if my RA is progressing?
- What kinds of therapies should I know about?
Keep in mind that the more you share with a rheumatologist about your condition, the better he or she will be able to diagnose and treat you.
What to expect in an initial examination
During your first visit to the rheumatologist, you may be doing a lot of the talking. This can be a long visit in which the rheumatologist will listen to you describe your symptoms. Your rheumatologist may also perform a full musculoskeletal exam, which involves a focused examination of your joints and muscles. By performing a series of activities and positions, your rheumatologist will be able to assess your range of motion.
Once a diagnosis is made, your rheumatologist will explain the nature of your illness and what you might expect in the future. With an accurate diagnosis and a shared understanding of your illness, you and your rheumatologist can work together to design a treatment program aimed at managing pain and reducing inflammation to treat your disease.