Healthy Living

Rheumatoid Arthritis: What to Expect at a Visit with a Rheumatologist

Rheumatoid Arthritis: What to Expect at a Visit with a Rheumatologist

Key Takeaways

  • If you have unbearable pain in any of the joints, you should visit a rheumatologist who specializes in autoimmune disorders that affect the musculoskeletal system. 
  • Rheumatologists will conduct a thorough exam including all of your joints and your heart and lungs, blood and urine samples, as well as imaging like X-rays, MRIs or ultrasounds. 
  • You should strictly follow the medication course prescribed by the doctor and avoid alcohol or smoking.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. This situation creates inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints (the synovium) to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints.

Whenever you have pain in the joints which is dull but sharp, sometimes even unbearable, you should visit a general doctor nearby you. That doctor, after all the diagnostic tests will direct you to a rheumatologist, who is a specialist dealing with rheumatoid arthritis and its diagnosis if the disorder is confirmed. It is always advisable to get treatment from a rheumatologist rather than a general physician because a rheumatologist understands the situation better.

A rheumatologist is an expert dealing with RA – he is the top consultant who can advice the patient on how to deal with the disorder. Also, if the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is found earlier, getting early treatment from a rheumatologist is the best thing that can happen.

Generally speaking, rheumatoid arthritis being an autoimmune disease is difficult to diagnose in early stages but now due to the availability of new and advanced methods of diagnosis, early detection of rheumatoid arthritis is possible. It is therefore advisable for the person inhabiting the disorder to be open about his disorder with the people around him, especially with the rheumatologist – the more clear and vocal you’ll be about your symptoms, the faster you will help yourself to get out of the disorder.

Apart from their general studies, rheumatologists specialize in autoimmune disorders that affect the musculoskeletal system. Visits with rheumatologists will take few hours because it will include some conversations and examinations. Also, patients should know that rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic progressive disease therefore, patients will be required to visit the doctor quite often.

Prepare yourself

It is difficult to remember all the symptoms in the right order, but it will be very helpful for the doctor. Therefore, take up a paper and pen down all the symptoms that you remember in the correct order and if there were any changes in the symptoms over time. Also, it will be better if you do some research whether someone in the family had such issues or not. If not this disease, then any other disease that runs in the family should be noted. Also the other health problems that you have been suffering from along with the prescriptions and other test records. The first step to cure any disorder, infection or disease is to trace its root cause, once you determine that, you must always vow to be honest in sharing it with your rheumatologist.

Some rheumatologists will also conduct a thorough exam, usually including all of your joints, from your shoulders to your toes, as well as your heart and lungs. After the physical exam, new patients may be asked for blood and urine samples, as well as imaging like X-rays, MRIs or ultrasounds. Rheumatologists encourage all new patients to make sure they understand their diagnoses, ask about follow-up appointments and clarify any work or activity restrictions. Some patients in this situation may find it helpful to take notes during their appointment. Different patients may have a different way to ease their body, they must always follow whatever they feel is comfortable for them.

Questions and Answers

You should be absolutely ready to answer questions thrown by the rheumatologist with full sincerity.  First, there are several general questions that the rheumatologist will ask like “What is the problem”, “What are the symptoms”, “Changes in the symptoms”, “When it becomes better or worse”, “How is the pain”,” Are there any other symptoms apart from joint pain”. There can also be many other random question depending on your condition, gender and age.

Some questions maybe completely out of context, but you should know that the doctor has a good reason to ask. If you feel uncomfortable, then feel free to ask the reason behind it. What you must always remember to do is to put all your faith and trust in your doctor that whatever he’ll do would be for your benefit and goodwill.

Also, you should have a list of questions ready to be asked from your side. It is always better to have a list of questions rather than just remembering then and there. There will be many things that you will forget while being in front of the doctor. Moreover, there are chances that when you’ll sit and relax, you’ll tend to jot down your thoughts in a more clear way.

The next steps

The rheumatologist will decide whether the tests that were already done are enough for treatment. If tests are not done earlier, then the doctor will write some tests that are important (and should be done) like X-rays, ultrasound or blood tests. After the tests are done, you should take the reports to the doctor to discuss any further treatment or analysis. After diagnosing all the data and results of physical examination, common complaints and laboratory test results, the doctor will finally detect the condition as being Rheumatoid arthritis.

At this point, the doctor will write some medication, and will advice to strictly follow the medication course and to avoid alcohol or smoking. A more natural way of dealing with the disease is to make sure that you maintain a proper diet and balance in the lifestyle pattern where no sort of drug consumption or medication is consumed without the consent of the doctor.

A good, healthy diet that is rich in proteins, fibers and minerals will prove to be beneficial not only to cure the disease, but also in maintaining a steady, healthy life. This is why the doctor will ask whether there is any change in the condition after a few months. The patient at this point must never be hesitant in sharing any signs or symptoms that he may find developing in his body. The rheumatologist then will tell you a date when you have to visit the doctor. Keep in mind that treatment on time will help you lead a healthier life.