Preparing for a Rheumatology Appointment

Even after all these years, I feel anticipation and sometimes anxiety as my rheumatology appointment approaches. My thoughts circle around: what will he say? What will my blood test results indicate? Am I doing OK?

Rheumatoid arthritis may be “old hat,” but it is always new too! Following the rule of “it’s always something,” I usually expect some unwelcome change or complication. I love the few appointments when we decide all is well (or at least near the same), and we can continue on the current course.

While I have been to many appointments and tried many treatments, I still do some preparation before my rheumatology appointments. Think of it as home work to get yourself ready and in the mind frame for the RA checkup.

  1. Go in for the blood testing. At the previous appointment, I pre-arrange the tests and know when I can go in so that the results will be ready for my next meeting with the doctor. I like to have the test within a week of the appointment so that the results are new and won’t be too dated for reflecting how I am currently feeling.
  2. Think about what has changed. I think about and talk with my husband about anything we have noticed that has changed in my health, feeling (such as stiffness, fatigue, or pain), or abilities. It’s good for me to note anything, but I also find it extremely helpful to get my husband’s perspective because he is close to me and my condition while also having a fresh perspective.
  3. Think about what has notSometimes we may be trying to tackle a specific problem or symptom. Did the attempt work? Have I noticed an improvement or any progress? Conversely, has a problem not worsened? That could also be good news!
  1. Come with updates from other doctors. Often I will have other doctors’ visits to report on, such as a physical with my family doctor, checkup with the podiatrist, or update from the dermatologist. I will make a note to myself about any visits and outcomes to make sure I convey that to my rheumatologist. He likes to keep up to date on my entire health picture, especially because this can impact my medications.
  2. Prepare a list of questions I want to ask. Without fail I have questions to ask my rheumatologist about how I am doing, how well my medications are working, how my RA is contributing to other health conditions, and so forth. With time being limited, I like to think in advance what I want to ask so that I can stay focused during the appointment. It’s also helpful for me to chat with my husband about any questions or concerns he may have that should be brought up to the doctor. (In fact, I like my husband to come to these appointments for that reason and also to be a second listener to make sure I don’t miss any details of the discussion.)

I find a little preparation and forethought before every rheumatology visit to be very helpful and also maximizes the time of the appointment. It doesn’t take a lot to get some thoughts in order, prioritize, and make the visit as productive as possible. Also, having a spouse or other person close to you in the room provides support and serves as a backup for remembering information (especially if the discussion gets complicated or technical).

What do others do to prepare for seeing their rheumatologist? Other thoughts, suggestions, and ideas are welcome for making the best use of these important visits.

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