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Rheumatologist Appointment Question Guide

Receiving an arthritis diagnosis can be overwhelming and confusing. If you were recently diagnosed, especially with inflammatory arthritis, you likely have a lot of questions, or you might not know where to start.

Rheumatologist appointments are short and infrequent. It’s okay to ask for clarification when you don’t understand what your doctor is saying about treatments, symptoms and more. It’s also important to come prepared.

To help you make the most of your next appointment, Arthritis Research Canada’s Patient Advisory Board has created a question guide. It includes questions that helped members living with different types of arthritis gain a better understanding of how to navigate life with chronic illness.

Understanding Arthritis

  • What is the difference between osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions? What falls under the term arthritis?
  • What is remission? Is remission attainable for me? How do I know if I’ve reached remission?
  • What is a flare? How do I know if I’m having a flare and what should I do about it?
  • Do I have a high, medium, or low disease activity level?
  • What should I look for and how do I read my blood tests?
  • How is my condition different from other forms of arthritis?
  • How common is my condition?
  • Is arthritis hereditary? What are the chances of my children developing arthritis?
  • Is my arthritis fatal or does it reduce my lifespan?
  • What triggered my arthritis?
  • Is my arthritis an autoimmune disease?
  • How do I explain arthritis to those close to me?
  • What are some common misconceptions around arthritis?

Medications

  • Which medications do you recommend for me, and why?
  • What are the possible benefits or harms of this option?
  • How likely are each of those benefits and harms to happen to me?
  • Do I really have to take my medications forever if I feel well?
  • What actions can I take to try and phase out or reduce my reliance on medications?
  • How will we know if my treatment is working? How long will it take until I see benefits from my medication?
  • How can I tell if my medications are not working?
  • Can my medications stop working after a while and what can cause this?
  • Do I have to pause this medication if I develop an infection?
  • What are the possible side effects, do the side effects go away on their own or is there anything I can do about them?
  • What side effects should I be on the lookout for that tell me I need to stop this medication?
  • Does my medication make me photosensitive and how can I protect myself in the sun?
  • Is weight gain or hair loss common with this medication? What can I do about this?
  • Are there any supplements I should be taking in conjunction with my medications or ones that I should be avoiding?
  • What drug interactions do I need to look out for?
  • Can I drink alcohol on this medication?
  • How will these medications impact my fertility and reproductive health?

Arthritis Symptoms

  • Are there any other chronic conditions associated with arthritis that I should be aware of and how can I prevent them?
  • What organs can be affected by arthritis?
  • Can I still have arthritis symptoms but have well-controlled disease?
  • Does arthritis impact my mental health? What can I do about this?
  • Does arthritis make me feel like I have the flu or run a mild fever?
  • What does it mean to be immunocompromised? Am I immunocompromised? How can I keep myself safe when immunocompromised?
  • Does arthritis cause fatigue?
  • Is arthritis causing my forgetfulness and confusion?
  • Can arthritis cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains?
  • What’s triggering my flare-ups?
  • Is there anything that I should avoid or not do that will harm my arthritis?
  • Will I need surgery?
  • How can I prevent joint damage?
  • How do I know when I should go to the emergency room?

Daily Life

  • Could I benefit from any aids such as braces, splints, adaptations to my home or work? Who can help me with this?
  • How can I live as normal of a life as possible?
  • Does arthritis affect my sex life and what can I do about this? Is poor sleep worsening my arthritis? What can I do about this? Do I need a sleep exam?

Work

  • What is a vocational rehabilitation therapist and how can they help me continue working with arthritis?
  • Do you recommend I go on disability?
  • Should I tell my employer about my arthritis diagnosis? How do I go about doing this?
  • What adaptations can I make to continue working or make work a bit easier?

Exercise

  • Where can I go for support with increasing my physical activity?
  • Is physical activity safe for me?
  • Is there anything I can do about my posture?
  • What are some popular exercises your other patients enjoy doing with arthritis?
  • Does exercise improve arthritis symptoms?

Diet & Nutrition

  • What support is available to help me maintain a healthy diet?
  • Can diet cure arthritis?
  • Should I see a registered dietitian or a nutritionist?
  • Is there evidence of any specific diets or supplements that help symptoms?
  • I understand there’s a link between gut microbiome and chronic illnesses. How can I balance or regulate my gut microbiome?
  • Should I avoid gluten? Nightshades? Sugar?
  • What foods worsen arthritis?
  • What foods improve arthritis?

Alternative Therapies

  • In addition to medication, are there other things I can do to improve my quality of life?
  • Are massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic treatment safe for me?
  • Are there complementary treatments I could try? Are there non-medical therapies I can use to help with swelling and pain?
  • Should I see a naturopath?
  • Would physical therapy or occupational therapy help me?
  • Does exercise help? What kinds of activities are safe for me to do?
  • What lifestyle changes do you recommend for me?
  • What other specialists or healthcare providers should I see?

Physical Exams

  • Do you see any swelling on any of the affected joints?
  • Do you notice any mechanical and/or mobility differences from the last visit?
  • Do you see any muscle mass differences from any of the larger muscles around the affected joints?

Finding Support

  • What resources can I seek out to get connected to other people with my type of arthritis?
  • What are some reliable medical journals or health websites I can read?
  • What is the latest research on my condition?
  • Where can I get involved in arthritis research?
  • What’s the best or preferred method to reach you with questions, concerns, or symptoms?

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