10 Ways to Build a Strong Relationship with Your Rheumatologist for PsA
A rheumatologist is a doctor who has received extra training in the detection and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and autoimmune conditions, including psoriatic arthritis. Oftentimes you will initially see your primary physician for your symptoms but, if they suspects there may be an underlying cause beyond their training, they may refer you to a rheumatologist.
Find the best rheumatologist in your region
Like many specialists, rheumatologists can be booked six months in advance. Therefore, it's critical you find the best one you can, even if that requires some travel. The last thing you want is to feel like you wasted half a year waiting for someone who was not understanding of your condition or confident in your disorder. Try to get a recommendation from someone who has seen a rheumatologist in your region.
Be open to their opinion
When aches and pains are vague, it can be easy to ask everyone you know for a possible answer to your discomfort. Instead of bringing everyone’s opinion to your appointment, let the rheumatologist know your symptoms and then just listen. My experience as someone living with psoriasis and arthritis is that rheumatologists are extremely wise and tend to look beyond the obvious in their assessments.
Have a short-term goal in mind
The number of symptoms you experience with an autoimmune disorder can be overwhelming. Symptoms can range from cold fingers to achy joints to itchy skin. Before your first appointment, do a quick triage of exactly what you hope to accomplish short term. For example, if you have psoriasis, you may just want to get a prescription for a cream that works when the itching is severe.
Have a long-term goal in mind
At my first appointment with my rheumatologist, I told her that long-term I just wanted to continue to get stronger and remain active. That goal has been a guide for us in deciding treatment. For example, I take an anti-inflammatory medication once a week after my hardest weight session. While I know the medication has risks, I also know that my long-term goal is to continue to build muscle.
Keep a record of your health between visits
Symptoms related to autoimmune disorders can be extremely seasonal. For example, when I visited my rheumatologist in the fall, my psoriasis was super itchy. Had my appointment been in summer, I may not have even remembered I had psoriasis. If your appointments are only once or twice a year, be sure to keep seasonal records to share with your rheumatologist.
Bring a list of medications you are currently taking
Many of the medications your rheumatologist might prescribe will be medications that impact your entire body. It is therefore important that you bring a list of all the medications you are currently taking, even if you think they have nothing to do with your current symptoms. Be sure to include any supplements or herbal medicines you are taking in the list.
Know which prescription refills are needed
Some of the medications your rheumatologist will prescribe are taken as needed for your symptoms. It is therefore important to check the amount of medicine you have left before your appointment so you can get the refills you need.
Do what is asked between appointments
Your rheumatologist may ask you to do certain things before your next appointment. For example, she may ask you get blood work done or start physical therapy. If appointments are spaced out to once or twice a year, it is easy to forget about what the doctor asked you to do. However, if the rheumatologist thought that it was important for your disease, doing what was asked shows her that you respect her opinion.
Try to make all of your appointments
A good specialist can be extremely hard to come by. Specialists can have waiting lists for new patients of up to a year, especially in a rural area. Taking a valuable appointment spot and then canceling with short notice can prevent someone else with bothersome symptoms the help they need.
Be patient with the process
Rheumatic diseases are often complex and difficult to figure out. A rheumatologist may need to gather more medical information including specific bloodwork numbers to look for clues of what might be happening. If you have a complicated autoimmune disorder, you will most likely be in a long relationship with your rheumatologist. Therefore, do not feel frustrated if you are not given quick answers on your first visit.