“How I Found Dr. Right—and Got the RA Treatment I Needed!”

It’s important that your doctor is someone you can work well with. One woman shares what you need to know when choosing a rheumatologist.

Health Monitor Staff

Make sure you have a top-notch primary care physician (PCP)
Ask your rheumatologist to recommend a strong primary care physician (PCP) to round out your health care. You probably see your rheumatologist only a few times a year, and he or she is focusing mainly on your joints. You need another healthcare professional who can help manage any other conditions you may have. A good PCP can also help you deal with secondary aspects of your RA, such as vision and stomach problems, heart-disease risk factors and medication side effects. “I finally found a great internist,” says Kelly. “He actually has done research on RA, and wants to work with me on my other health issues.” 

Hit the right websites to stay current on RA—easily
There is a flood of new research on RA, and keeping on top of it can be daunting. That’s one of the reasons Kelly started her site—to make it easier for RA patients to stay in the loop. Kelly goes to the ACR conferences herself, and spends about 60 hours a week keeping the site up to date. Don’t assume your rheumatologist knows everything. “If you find something really important on a blog, go find the actual study and print out the part that you think applies to your care,” Kelly suggests. “Highlight it, and send or drop it off at your doctor’s office. Ask the staff to put it in your chart so it will be handy at your next appointment and you can discuss the issue face to face.”

Monitor your meds’ effectiveness.
If you have been taking a new medication for six months, and aren’t seeing any improvement, it’s time to try something else. To track your progress, keep a log indicating how you feel on a daily or weekly basis. Is your functionality getting better, worse, or staying the same? You should start to see some improvement shortly after you start a new med, but if there’s no real change by six months—or you’re feeling worse, you may need to change your medication,  or the dosage, or switch to a different combination of meds.  Kelly also advises monitoring your temperature, since many people with RA have low-grade fevers. “Take your temperature every day,” she says. “If a low-grade fever persists, your med may not be working the way it should.” 

April 2013