6 Questions Arthritis Patients Must Ask Their Doctor

What You Need to Know

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The importance of having a good doctor-patient relationship is often emphasized. As we all know, some doctors are better communicators than others -- and the same can be said of patients. As an arthritis patient, there is basic information about your condition that you must know and understand. Here are 6 questions you should ask your doctor so that you will be able to work together as a team.

1 - What type of arthritis do I have? There are different types of arthritis.

Your treatment options depend on your type of arthritis. Being accurately diagnosed by your doctor and understanding your diagnosis are two essential elements of your health care. Once your doctor diagnoses your condition, find excellent resources so that you can learn about the disease.  

2 - What did my test results show (blood tests and imaging studies)? When you first consult your doctor and present your symptoms, tests are usually ordered to rule out various conditions or confirm a preliminary diagnosis. Ask your doctor what abnormalities appeared in the test results. Inquire about the severity of the abnormalities. Ask for a printed copy of the blood test results and imaging study reports.

3 - When should I expect to notice improvement from my current treatment? After you have been diagnosed, your doctor will prescribe medication or recommend a treatment regimen. Every patient, eager to get symptoms under control, is anxious to know how long it takes to see positive results.

Discuss your expectations with your doctor. Even though patients vary in their response to treatment, some medications are known to be slow-acting (e.g., DMARDs). Your doctor should be able to explain the goal of your treatment, when you should expect some positive impact, and how long you will wait before switching to something else, if the current treatment appears to be ineffective.

4 - If my current treatment does not prove effective, what are my treatment options going forward? Some people are forward-thinking. They want to know what comes next. They want answers to the "what-if" questions. How do I know this? I am one of those patients. Metaphorically-speaking, it's like playing in a football game and having the next play ready. Some people find comfort in knowing what might come next. It allows you time to become mentally prepared.

5 - In addition to my prescribed medications, what should I be doing to help manage my arthritis? Traditional arthritis treatment, primarily involves oral or injectable drugs. But, there are no rules that state you can't try alternative or complementary treatments as well. It may be helpful to include physical therapy sessions. You may need some assistive devices or adaptive equipment. Tap into your doctor's experience and ask for suggestions above and beyond medications. Be specific as you discuss what is most bothersome to you and how it affects your ability to perform usual daily activities.

6 - What's my prognosis? Based on the severity of your arthritis when you are first diagnosed and your response to treatment, ask your doctor what you should expect in the near future. Does your doctor expect that symptom severity can be controlled and disease progression can be slowed? Does your doctor think you may be a candidate for joint replacement surgery sooner rather than later? Is there a chance you could go into an arthritis remission? Discuss the possibilities -- even though you know there are no guarantees.

The Bottom Line

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you stay on-topic with your doctor as you discuss your specific type of arthritis. It will help you to understand how your treatment should work and allow you to set realistic goals.

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