5 Topics to Discuss With Your Rheumatologist
Want to get the most out of your appointments with your rheumatologist? Here are 5 key topics to discuss together. Prepare this information ahead of time to share with your doctor.
Describing your most severe areas of joint pain can help pinpoint which locations should be prioritized. Does your pain concentrate more on small joints such as the hands or feet, or do you have pain in larger weight-bearing joints such as the lower back, hips, and knees?
If your pain is "all over" or widespread throughout your body, try to identify a "top 3" to focus on during a single appointment. Further trouble areas can be noted to be discussed at follow-up visits.
Along with joint pain, it is important to mention whether you have been suffering from swelling of the joints or morning joint stiffness. Joint swelling and morning joint stiffness lasting beyond 1 hour can be signs of more severe joint inflammation and synovitis.
Muscle pain and weakness
Aside from your joints, do you also have muscle aches and pains? Discuss with your rheumatologist which muscle groups are painful and whether you are suffering from a sensation of weakness in your muscles. If you felt stronger in the past, could participate more in activities and exercise, and can no longer do those things, bring this up.
Lupus can cause a variety of rashes, and most of them are sensitive to UV light exposure. You may have noticed a butterfly rash on the cheeks or red patches on the upper arms that become more pronounced when you spend time outdoors. Talk with your rheumatologist about whether these rashes feel itchy or painful and whether you have applied any over-the-counter creams or ointments to your rash.
Triggers of flares
Usually, people with lupus can identify what triggers their flares, and some keep a journal to find patterns. Discuss with your rheumatologist whether certain foods, ingredients, weather changes, or stress tend to contribute to your flare-ups. Another helpful thing for your doctor to know is what a flare looks and feels like for you. Do you have increased fatigue and joint pain? Do you develop a rash? Do you have digestive and urinary troubles? Do you have chest pain or palpitations? Since lupus is so different for every person, it is useful for your rheumatologist to have a picture of how flare-ups affect you personally.
If you are being treated with drugs for lupus, discuss with your rheumatologist whether these are helping. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether a drug is really making a difference, since many of them take so long to build up to a therapeutic level. Make a list of which symptoms seem to be improving over time and which seem to be staying the same or worsening.
Also, tell your rheumatologist if you are experiencing any side effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea, or rash. If you are taking Plaquenil, also known as hydroxychloroquine, update your rheumatologist on your last eye exam and whether the findings were normal.
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