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.

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.

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.

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?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (3)
  • elisee55
    2 years ago

    My rheumatologist has me fill out a detailed computerized touch screen questionnaire each time I visit, before I go in to the treatment room. It covers how I’m feeling, my ability to complete functional tasks, ratings of pain and stiffness, using ratings scales for everything. Then, I go in to see a nurse practioner, who completes a physical exam to evaluate joint swelling and tenderness, and talk to me about any concerns I may have. This is communicated to the doctor in ‘medical speak’ when she comes in, and she goes over my meds, blood work, etc. This seems efficient, and the doctor can see more patients, cover a lot of ground, and the relationship is as much about the nurse practioner’s skills as the doctor. I like this system for myself, as I don’t feel rushed but the actual ‘doctor contact’ is actually not a long time. My doctor also deals with my severe osteoporosis and fibromyalgia, so there is often a lot to cover. As patients we do not have any say in how a doctor chooses to set up their practice, but I really hope that when we do get a doctor who goes the extra mile, we really make sure we let them know we appreciate it!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks Elise! Very interesting and I like the use of technology in the hope that it helps with gathering information and making the visit more efficient. I think it’s important to feel connected to a nurse or doctor or clinician in the practice. Hopefully you feel that with the nurse? Even if you don’t have a lot of time with the doctor, I have felt it helps me when a clinician gets to know me over the long term and cares about how I am doing. Best, Kelly

  • Erin Rush moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, Elise! What a great way to do things. It sounds like your rheumatologist’s office is a definite winner. And you are right — when we DO find a good doctor and office, we should let them know. I am so glad you have a good medical team helping you manage your conditions. Thanks again for sharing! Best, Erin, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member.

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