Good doctor-patient communication can lead to better management of rheumatoid arthritis


For patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), pain is a part of life. Nearly 70 percent of people being treated for RA, experience pain, stiffness or fatigue on a daily basis. However, many patients don't realize that better communication with their rheumatologist could lead to improved care.

Studies have shown that earlier treatment of RA can limit joint damage, which can limit loss of movement.

"Talking to your doctor and effectively communicating how RA affects your life are keys to improving the management of your disease," says Dr. John H. Klippel, CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. "Patients need to recognize that the rheumatologist has the very same goal as they do - to understand how RA affects their life and to develop a plan to manage their disease."

RA is a serious form of arthritis that impacts more than 1.3 million people in the United States alone. The chronic inflammation in the lining of joints that defines RA can lead to decreased range of motion and permanent joint damage.

The Arthritis Foundation suggests RA patients do some homework before visiting their doctor by "Taking P.A.R.T.":

* Prepare: You should keep a journal of symptoms and compile a list of questions for your doctor. List all of your medications, including prescriptions, over-the-counter remedies, and even herbal supplements.
* Ask questions: You should ask questions whenever something doesn't seem clear. This will help to ensure you understand what's going on and how to best manage your condition. Keep it simple, specific and direct.
* Repeat: Take notes and repeat the instructions and information you receive from your doctor to make sure you heard and understand it. Ask for written handouts and instructions.
* Take action: Be part of the solution. Let your doctor know about your lifestyle, concerns, and preferences so a treatment plan can be customized to your specific needs.

The Arthritis Foundation has launched a national campaign called "Let's Talk RA" to educate RA patients on how to better communicate with their rheumatologists and to highlight how important a doctor-patient relationship is to improving patient care. Bristol-Myers Squibb sponsors the "Let's Talk RA" campaign.

A free "Let's Talk RA" communication kit that can help patients take a more active role in their care is available from the Arthritis Foundation at www.letstalkra.org, or by calling (800) 568-4045.

 

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