New doctor visits are always a very stressful event. You have to wake up early, get extra clean, and prepare to tell a complete stranger all the most intimate details of your life while preparing to be lectured about everything you might possibly be doing wrong. Fortunately, visiting your Rheumatologist doesn’t have to be a scary experience.
Take a breath. Relax. Don’t let the negative stigmas surrounding the doctor’s office make your first visit to the Rheumatologist a negative one. Chances are, you will leave feeling much more optimistic about your symptoms than when you arrived.
What Does a Rheumatologist Do?
A rheumatologist is just a fancy title for an internist. They are a doctor that specializes in internal medicine with a focus on arthritis, musculoskeletal conditions and systemic autoimmune diseases. Their specialized training includes joints, bones, muscles, autoimmune diseases, and other rheumatic diseases.
They have experience in treating issues such as chronic back pain, Lupus, Osteoarthritis, Gout, Tendinitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, and many other internal medical diseases. They are the doctor you want to look into your symptoms when you have a condition causing you debilitating pain.
If you are experiencing joint pain, arthritis, and autoimmune issues, a Rheumatologist visit should be an exciting and welcome experience. It is the first step to alleviating the symptoms associated with your affliction.
What to Expect During Your Appointment and How to Prepare
So, what will a Rheumatologist do on the first visit? Thankfully, that is an easy question to answer. If you have ever been to a primary care physician, you have likely already had a similar experience. Let’s dive into what you can expect.
- Questions: You will be spending a significant portion of your first visit simply answering a series of questions. These questions will range from a detailed recollection of your family history to everything you can think of regarding your symptoms. Here is where you need to be as detailed as possible. If you are experiencing something strange, but don’t think it is related, say it anyway. The body is a world of interconnecting channels that you may not understand completely. If you are visiting due to pain in your hands but are also experiencing numbness in your feet, tell the doctor about the numbness. They could be unrelated, or they could point toward a specific treatable illness. Either way, if they’re irrelevant, informing your Rheumatologist about your feet could get you a valuable referral to treat that symptom as well.
- Tests: Your visit will also consist of a series of tests. These tests might happen the day of your visit, or you might get a series of referrals. Your Rheumatologist will want to do the basics like collect a urine sample and draw blood. Then they may also have you take X-Rays, get CT and MRI scans, and other imaging tests. The thought of getting these scans can be uncomfortable, but your Rheumatologist is simply doing their due diligence to ensure that you get the best quality of care possible.
- Your Questions: Your Rheumatologist will also open up a time for you to be able to ask any questions you may have. This is where you get a feel for your doctor, your health, and each visit moving forward. No matter how silly the question may seem to you, just ask it. Your peace of mind is worth more than the temporary embarrassment of the feeling that you are wasting the Rheumatologist’s time. Are you concerned about when your next appointment will be? Ask them. Do you have fears about what will happen next? Tell them. Do you associate your symptoms with your lifestyle? Ask them if there is a correlation. This is your time. Get the help you need physically and mentally if possible.
- Referrals: The last step of your appointment will be the referral process. Your Rheumatologist may or may not have all the tests available in their office, and your symptoms may point toward something outside their specialty. They will provide you with the referrals necessary to complete your tests and get the medical help you may need in another office. They will also forward your information to your primary care doctor, who may want to follow up with you to give you continued care.
See. That wasn’t so bad. It is not unlike any visit you have already had with your primary care physician except maybe the extent of the scans. Now that you know what to expect, how should you prepare?
Preparation is relatively straightforward. Here are a few things that you can do to make your appointment goes as smoothly as possible.
Have a Referral: Chances are, you didn’t even get the appointment without a referral. If you somehow managed to get in without it, you may be turned away. Your insurance provider needs to know that your primary care physician approved the visit to your Rheumatologist to cover it.
Know Medical History: It might be routine by now, but make sure you are fully aware of your medical history. Prepare as many details as possible so that your Rheumatologist can be certain of what you may or may not have as a genetic predisposition. This can point them in the right direction before you even start.
Consider All Symptoms: You don’t want to leave out anything that you may be experiencing on a day-to-day basis. If necessary, write down everything that you experience so that you are prepared to share it with your Rheumatologist. There is no such thing as being too thorough or excessive when it comes to your health. Be ready to tell them as much as you can to get the treatment necessary.
Prepare Questions: You may plan to ask your doctor a series of questions of your own, but forgetting them when you arrive is very common. Write the questions down, and be prepared to ask them when the time comes. You may already have the answer when your Rheumatologist asks if you have any questions, but at least you know you did what you could.
Drink Lots of Water: If you are like the average person, when you leave the house, you use the restroom and try to stay away from too many fluids to prevent the need to use it while you’re out. Your Rheumatologist will ask for a urine sample. Drinking plenty of fluids will make it, so you’re capable of producing urine while in the office.
What might feel like a scary experience is actually something that you should be excited about. You are visiting your Rheumatologist because of the pain you are experiencing. It is their job to make it go away. View your trip as the next step to enjoying your life.
Don’t hold off any longer. Ask your primary care physician for a referral to a Rheumatologist today. You will thank yourself tomorrow.