Team Up With Your Doctor to Fight RA

Open communication with your rheumatoid arthritis doctor is essential. Here's how to build a healing relationship.

Health Monitor Staff
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One of the first steps in the RA healing process is to establish a satisfying partnership with each member of your healthcare team—and especially with your rheumatologist.

Base these partnerships on a back-and-forth flow of information: You talk about how you're feeling and what you want out of treatment. And when your doctor talks to you about treatment options or lifestyle changes to consider, your job is to listen carefully and then ask questions.

In 2002, Lyn S., now in her mid-40s, a successful chief financial officer in Dallas, was baffled by the onset of pain and stiffness across her body. "I had episodes during which I couldn't lift my arm," says the married mother of a teenage daughter. This was followed by severe foot pain and months of steroid injections in her toe joints. Then the pain spread to her hands.

The road to recovery
In September 2007, Lyn was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Having a diagnosis meant she could work with doctors to find the right treatment. However, she had an uphill climb. "One of my lowest points was when my parents came over and vacuumed my floors," she says. "You ask yourself, 'What does the rest of my life hold?'"

Lyn chose to fight her RA. She began working closely with her rheumatologist to find a treatment that would help. "It required some trial and error to find the right medications," she says. "But today I feel great."

In part, Lyn credits her success to the relationship she has developed with her rheumatologist. "He takes my concerns seriously," she says. "I told him that I love him because he gave me back my life, and he just smiled."

Finding the right doctor
The type of partnership that Lyn describes is what experts call a healing relationship—one in which doctor and patient work together. Each contributes knowledge and commitment to the task of helping the patient get well.

A healing relationship requires frank communication, and mutual trust and respect. And while healing relationships don't cure arthritis, they can reduce some patients' suffering and help them lead more normal and fulfilling lives than would otherwise be possible.

October 2010