5 RA Facts You Must Share in the Exam Room

Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor what’s going on with your rheumatoid arthritis. These tips will make it easy to spill the beans.

Kathleen Engel
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Experts reveal common things people with rheumatoid arthritis keep to themselves—and why they shouldn’t.

Fact #1: “I don’t understand my treatment.”

Why you should tell: Without fully understanding your treatment, it’s easy to slip up!

Easy way to confess: “I really trust your advice, but sometimes I have trouble understanding what you want me to do,” suggests Barbara Korsch, MD, professor at the University of Southern California. Or, “I want to make sure I understand you. Should I be stretching and going for walks every day?”

Fact #2: “I haven’t been taking my arthritis meds.”

Why you should tell: Your doctor needs to accurately gauge if the treatment is effective. Skipping meds can explain, for instance, why you’re still experiencing pain and stiffness. And if side effects are the issue, you may be able to try something else.

Easy way to confess: Consider saying: “I tried to follow your advice, but I found the medicine hard to take. I got diarrhea/a skin rash,” suggests Dr. Korsch.

Fact #3: “I haven’t mentioned certain symptoms.”

Why you should tell: Even if you’re seeing your healthcare provider for one condition, tell him about any new or unusual symptoms, advises Dr. Korsch. Regular headaches, for example, could be a clue to an underlying problem, and your healthcare provider may want to test for it.

Easy way to confess: “I thought it might be important for you to know that I’ve been feeling dizzy lately/I’ve been losing weight without trying to.” 

Fact #4: “I’m seeing another physician.”

Why you should tell: Secretly following different treatment plans could be dangerous. For example, if you’re already taking pain medication, combining it with another drug may cause a bad reaction.

Easy way to confess: Be forthright: “I want you to know that I saw Dr. Jones for my knee pain.” A good physician will not be concerned by this, says Dr. Korsch. Every healthcare provider—including dentists and optometrists—should know about all treatments you’re receiving.

Fact #5: “I take over-the-counter supplements.”

Why you should tell: Some supplements interact with prescription and OTC drugs for arthritis treatment. Knowing all the products (e.g., vitamins/minerals, fish oil, amino acids) you’re taking helps your healthcare provider adjust your treatment plan.

Easy way to confess: At home, make a list and include dosages (such as, 2,000 IU of vitamin D). At your next appointment, hand it to your rheumatologist and ask if there’s anything on the list that could affect your treatment.

April 2013