How to Prepare for Your First Appointment with a Rheumatologist

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Being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis can be overwhelming, leaving you with a long list of questions and concerns. That's why being prepared for your first appointment with a rheumatologist can help you get the answers to your questions.

Getting organized

Every time you see a new doctor, they'll take your medical history. Do yourself (and your doctors) a favor and create a file on your computer to easily update. Include a current list of medications and dosages, past medications that didn't work, allergies, etc. If your doctor can take your medical history by following your document, this part of the appointment will be much faster, leaving more time for discussion.

Bring your test results

If you've already had blood tests or x-rays, ask the referring doctor for a copy of the lab results and get a CD with your x-rays, CT or MRI scans. It's possible that the rheumatologist will want to do their own tests, but bringing copies of what you have may prevent unnecessary duplication. You may also want to keep copies of these for your personal records.

Research, research, research

Spend some time getting information about the basics of RA. Understanding what may be happening and what the doctor is looking for when they examine you can make the appointment less stressful. Doing research will answer some of your questions and help you in creating a list of other questions to ask the doctor.

Honesty is the best policy

Be honest. Don't minimize your experience or skip lightly over how much your symptoms impact your life - this is information the doctor needs, not just in making a diagnosis, but also in developing a treatment plan.

Pay attention

First, listen closely to the questions the doctor asks and answer to the best of your ability. Secondly, pay attention to the way the doctor acts and speaks to you to see whether this is someone you can work with. Not all doctors excel in interpersonal skills some are dismissive, rude, make you feel rushed or don't answer your questions. Before your appointment, read up on being a good advocate for yourself.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket

RA can be difficult to diagnose, especially in the beginning and you may need seek out at second opinion, or even a third. Trust your instincts - if the rheumatologist says you do not have RA, but you think they’re wrong, talk to your family doctor about another referral.