It’s important to treat your RA early to prevent damage to your joints. It’s best to see a doctor who knows rheumatoid arthritis inside and out, even if your condition is mild. Ideally, you should see a rheumatologist -- a specialist in arthritis.
If you can’t see a rheumatologist for all your RA care, look for one who will partner with your regular doctor. You’ll still need to see the rheumatologist once in a while, but your primary care doctor may handle your day-to-day treatment.
If it’s not possible to see a rheumatologist at all, look for a primary care doctor who treats many people with RA and ask if they can work with a rheumatologist remotely.
You Should Feel Comfortable With Your Doctor
It’s simple: You need to be able to tell your doctor what’s going on, and she should be able to communicate clearly to support you.
Your doctor should also help you better understand your RA, what to expect from treatment, and what complementary treatments might help or hurt your condition.
Your Doctor Should Respond Quickly
To make the best match, think about:
The office staff. Are they considerate and helpful? Do they return your calls promptly? Because your time with your doctor may be limited, find out if your doctor works with other people who can help answer some of your questions.
Access. Can you get an appointment on short notice if you have an RA flare? How soon will the doctor return your calls or reply to your emails?
If your doctor doesn't have all the traits you’d like, tell them how you feel and ask for what you need.
If you’re still unhappy, look for another doctor. Check with organizations like the Arthritis Foundation or American College of Rheumatology for names of rheumatologists in your area. Ask your primary care doctor or friends.
Questions to Ask
Key things to know about your doctor include:
- Are they part of a group, or do they work on their own?
- Can I see the doctor of my choice in the practice, or must I see the first available doctor?
- How long is the average wait for an appointment?
- Does the office offer evening or weekend appointments?
Once you narrow your list, make appointments to talk with each of your top choices. It will take some time and effort, but it's worth it to find a doctor who's a good fit for you.