Questions for the Doctor
Living with a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis requires my active engagement in managing my health. I have learned that being knowledgeable and inquisitive about my care and maintaining my health is vitally important. Not only am I the person most impacted by how my RA is managed, but only I know how I am feeling.
Regularly asking questions is important
With this in mind, I have found it important to regularly ask my doctor certain questions on my visit. Before I make a trip to the doctor, I have a conversation with my husband about how I am doing because I find an outside perspective is also helpful. People close to me sometimes see changes that I may not see myself. However, a self-assessment is also important because only I can say if I am feeling achier, stiff, or feel other changes in symptoms.
Questions to ask your rheumatologist
Here’s some tips on questions to ask or discussion points with the rheumatologist:
- How are my blood test results? I like to get my blood work done within a week or so of my visit so that we can go over the results together in person. I find it helpful to look not only at the current results, but the chart that shows the trend. Such as my CRP inflammation marker during the last few years. The other important measures for me are my liver functions (due to the medication mix) and sometimes my white blood cells. Periodically we test my vitamin D levels, but this is less important now that I am on a monthly supplement and it is in normal range.
- How am I feeling? I love how this is the first question my doctor asks of me. For me, it is a testament that he understands, that while the numbers may be useful, it is more important to know how I am actually feeling. My numbers may be worse yet I feel OK. Or they may be better and I feel horrible. The most important factor in my care is how I am feeling because feeling worse means that we need to assess why and potentially take action to change my treatment plan.
- How is my quality of life? One of the important lessons I learned as a child with RA was that while I may never be ‘cured’, I could aim to live happily. So my lifelong quest has been for quality. Can I do the things I want to do in the course of the day? If not, should we adjust treatment or what can we do as far as help or adaptive equipment? Are my limitations changing and how can we best manage my abilities and the activities that most matter to me?
- What are the goals of my RA care? As I have said before, it is not my goal to be completely cured or symptom-free, as this is not a realistic assessment of my condition. Every person with RA has to determine their own goals with the support of their doctor. I have a lot of joint damage that I need to manage and my care is focused on slowing progression and maintaining my condition as best as possible. The goals may change for you over time, but it is good to have an understanding so that you can best adapt to the demands of living with RA.
Questions help me take charge of my RA
I have realized that I need to take charge of my RA, as I am the person most knowledgeable about my experience with the condition and can have the strongest impact on my treatment and management now and into the future. In short, I am the boss of my health and so take the lead when I go to my appointments. For me, asking these questions and engaging my doctor in these conversations is crucial for the best course of action in caring for my RA.
What other questions do you ask of your doctor and what advice can you share about how to manage your care?