The Importance of Seeing Specialists
The expertise and skills of medical specialists are crucial for managing rheumatoid arthritis and related conditions. A perfect example is that when I was diagnosed as a child, it wasn’t until a pediatrician referred me to a rheumatologist that my illness was correctly recognized. The doctor knew that I was ill, but pinning it down to a specific diagnosis and identifying treatment depended on a rheumatologist.
Some internal medicine practitioners or family doctors believe they have enough expertise to treat RA patients, but I definitely disagree. Over the years, my GPs (general practitioners) have usually been great, but they have been puzzled when I get unusual RA symptoms, side effects, or co-morbid conditions. It’s a matter of training, but also experience seeing RA patients.
Specialists have been essential to my RA treatment
While a GP is important for managing my overall health and seeing the big picture across all the specialists that I need to see, they don’t have the background of a specialist. I prefer that they keep their eye on the ball and my overall health as I age because no one else on my health team is thinking this way! I want a GP who will see the things the specialists will not and who will consider my long-term health.
RA brings about tricky health situations
Recently, I was reminded again about the importance of specialists because of a health crisis that landed me in the hospital with a fungal skin infection. Only after I was able to see my dermatologist a couple weeks later did we determine that the underlying cause of the skin infection was something called inverse psoriasis (a rare form of psoriasis, affecting only about 3 to 7% of psoriasis patients). When I followed up with my infectious disease doctor (who was terrific, by the way) he said he had never heard of that and was glad the dermatologist was able to biopsy my skin and figure it out.
My specialist team came together for my needs
In order to resolve this health crisis I needed my rheumatologist (who recognized I was infectious and saw the danger due to my compromised immune system), infectious disease doctor (who identified the fungal infection and treated it aggressively), dermatologist (who biopsied and determined the infection came about from untreated inverse psoriasis), and the hospitalist (who managed my overall care while in the hospital). Each vantage point was needed to apply expertise and eventually resolve the crisis.
You know you have RA when [select all that apply in your experience]: