Health Information

Talking to Your Doctor About Rheumatoid Arthritis

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and ask questions you may not have thought of.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and ask for clarification if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or to ask for more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About RA
  • Do my symptoms suggest that I have RA?
  • Could these symptoms be caused by any other joint diseases?
  • What kinds of tests will I need to have a firm diagnosis?
  • What should I tell my children about their risk of developing RA?
About Treatment Options
  • When can I expect to feel improvement from the treatment?
  • What comfort measures (such as heat or cold) might be helpful?
  • What medications can I take to reduce pain and improve my ability to function normally?
  • What side effects do these medications have?
  • Is my RA so advanced that I should consider any surgical procedures?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that may help me?
About Lifestyle Changes
  • What kinds of exercise should I do to increase my muscle strength?
  • Are there exercises that may help me feel better?
  • Are there exercises or athletic activities that I should avoid because they overly stress my joints?
  • Could my occupation be contributing to my joint disease and symptoms?
  • How much rest should I get?
  • Are there any assistive devices that might help me continue to function independently?
About Outlook
  • What is the usual progression of RA?
  • How can I slow or halt the progression of RA?
  • Do I have to give up or change any of my activities now or in the future?

Revision Information

  • Handout on health: Rheumatoid arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Rheumatic%5FDisease/default.asp. Updated August 2014. Accessed October 31, 2014.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/conditions-treatments/disease-center/rheumatoid-arthritis. October 31, 2014.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal%5Fand%5Fconnective%5Ftissue%5Fdisorders/joint%5Fdisorders/rheumatoid%5Farthritis%5Fra.html. Updated May 2013. Accessed October 31, 2014.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 10, 2014. Accessed October 31, 2014.

  • Tips for talking to your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/healthcare-management/working-with-your-doctor/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor.html. Updated May 2014. Accessed October 31, 2014.