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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"Patients have an essential role to play in their diagnosis and treatment," says John Scott, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey. "In fact," he adds, "sometimes it's the patient's determination to be a partner that helps create a healing relationship that wouldn't otherwise develop."

What you can do to heal
Dr. Scott, who has studied healing relationships, says patients should communicate with their doctors in whatever ways are most comfortable, whether that means using humor or a more businesslike, stick-to-the-facts style.

Whichever is best for you, it's important to let your doctor know how RA affects your life. For example, if you have difficulty walking a short distance, you may want to tell your doctor that your goal is to work up to a mile. Then the two of you can determine how long that should take and what treatments could help.

It's also smart to keep track of your symptoms between visits. Make a chart each month to note on which days symptoms occur and how severe they are. This will give your doctor a fuller picture of how you are responding to your treatment, and whether you should make any changes in your medication.

Help your doctor understand how much medical information you can digest. Some people want to learn everything they can about their condition; others are happier knowing less. Let your doctor know what you realistically can handle.

October 2010