Rheumatoid Arthritis - When to Call a Doctor

Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Sudden, unexplained swelling and pain in any joint or joints.
  • Joint pain associated with a fever or rash.
  • Pain that is so severe that you cannot use the joint.
  • Back or neck pain along with weakness in your arms or legs.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control.

Call your doctor within the next few days if you have:

  • Joint pain that continues and has not improved for over 6 weeks.
  • Side effects that occur with large doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other medicine used to treat your arthritis. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve).

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach. It is reasonable to try home treatment for mild joint pain and stiffness. If there is no improvement after 6 weeks, or if any other symptoms are present, call your doctor.

Early treatment can slow and sometimes prevent significant joint damage. So if you have symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis, see your doctor to find out if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Early diagnosis and treatment allows for possible reduction of joint pain, slows joint destruction, and reduces the chance of permanent disability.

Who to see

Early arthritis symptoms can be diagnosed by:

Rheumatoid arthritis can be treated by:

  • A rheumatologist.
  • A family medicine doctor or an internist who consults with a rheumatologist.

Supportive treatment can be provided by:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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