3 Things to Tell Your Doctor About Your Rheumatoid Arthritis

Middle aged Caucasian woman with arm pain at doctor

Managing rheumatoid arthritis can be challenging, which is why it’s important to build a strong relationship with your rheumatologist.

At your next appointment, don’t forget to mention these three things:

1. You’re experiencing worsening pain or swelling in your joints.

The pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis can usually be managed by medication, lifestyle changes, and other therapies. However, it doesn’t always stay the same. Sometimes, treatments stop being as effective and the disease progresses, leading to more pain and more damage to your joints. It can seem scary to admit your symptoms are worse, but it’s crucial to talk to your doctor about any changes so you can adjust your medications and other treatments appropriately.

2. You’re having trouble following your treatment plan.

Managing your rheumatoid arthritis means you should follow your doctor’s treatment plan, whether that means committing to taking medications, physical therapy, exercise, diets, or other strategies. However, it can be hard to stick with these therapies if you’re experiencing side effects or your treatments don’t fit with your lifestyle. If you aren’t able to commit to your treatment plan, there’s nothing to be ashamed about. Be honest with your doctor about these challenges so you can work together to find a solution, which might mean a different drug or therapy, an adjusted dosing schedule, or a practical lifestyle change.

3. You’re struggling with mental health.

Dealing with a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis can be stressful, and it’s common for people to experience anxiety and depression as a result. Rheumatoid arthritis can make you feel socially isolated on top of the pain, which can contribute to loneliness and depressed moods. These mood changes may only be a problem when you experience a flare-up of symptoms, or they may last for weeks, months, or years. If you’re experiencing feelings of depression for extended periods of time, or even just every so often, it’s crucial to talk to your doctor about it so you can find help. Depression and anxiety are both treatable conditions, and treating them can actually make your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms better and prevent flare-ups. Just because your rheumatologist isn’t a psychiatrist or counselor doesn’t mean he or she can’t provide you with mental health support–and send you in the direction of a mental health professional.

Living with rheumatoid arthritis can be extremely difficult at times, but you don’t have to do it on your own. Your rheumatologist is there to help you manage all aspects of your condition, from the physical to the emotional. Make a commitment to be honest with your physician so you receive the best care possible.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 8
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