By the time many folks get to a rheumatology appointment they have been through numerous tests and possible diagnoses. They don’t care what it is; they just want a name for their pain! And hopefully, the rheumatologist is just the person that can name it.
You can help that first appointment go a little better by being prepared. Make sure a referral has been sent if your insurance requires it. Have copies of all pertinent lab and XRAY reports with you or make the phone calls to assure they have been sent. Know what medicines other doctors have tried for your arthritis-like pain, what dosage and how well they worked, if at all. Have a list of all prior medical problems, current medications and allergies. If you think it might be needed, bring it! Better to be over prepared than under!
At that appointment you can first expect to fill out a mile of forms with a million questions. Usually rheumatologists want a very complete medical history so they can look for other related problems or a family history of arthritis. The more information you bring with you, the easier these forms will be.
Once the forms are filled you will see the doctor. Shell do a very thorough physical exam, touching most of your joints. If any of this causes pain, let her know. Xrays and blood tests may or may not be done and other tests may be ordered. It is quite possible you will walk out of there without a diagnosis. But steps are being made to find out exactly what is causing your pain.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. After all, it is your body. If you aren’t satisfied with an explanation ask for clarification. You cannot be an active member of your health care team unless you fully understand your condition. As Dr. Barry Waters says, The best patient is an aggressive, pushy patient.
Here are some questions our members have suggested that you may want to ask at that first visit:
What are my options for treatment?
What are possible side effects?
Can we work together, I will respect your ideas you respect mine?
Please explain the tests to me..ie: sed rate…RA factor, ANA…
Will I receive all my lab reports?
Are my children at risk for this disease?
What does that mean?
What type of approach do you recommend I initially try?
What are your feelings about other methods of treatment- i.e. Chiropractic, Herbal etc.
Will you let me play an active role in my treatment and in the decisions you make that will affect me?
What do the test results mean?
What is the purpose of the prescribed medicines?
How fast should the medicines help and which symptoms should be reported
What is the best aggressive treatment to take at that time so that you don’t have damage?
How can I educate myself about this disease?
What should I expect to feel like and notice?
What are the side effects of the meds?
What kind of activity can I take part in?
How do I get in touch with you if I’m having a problem?
If you are the type of person that gets nervous and forgets what the doctor said, consider bringing someone with you to the appointment, two heads may be better than one.
With a little preparation and patience, that first appointment will not be so bad, certainly nothing to fear. After all, most rheumatologists don’t bite!