Newly Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis

A diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis can come as quite a shock. RA is a lifelong condition. It may begin to have an impact on several aspects of your life and your routine. Simple daily tasks may not be as straightforward as previously. Your energy levels may be affected. However, a positive approach to self-management and education can help you to adjust.

After a preliminary diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by your GP, you will be referred to a hospital rheumatologist to confirm the diagnosis and for specialist advice, treatment and ongoing care. How long it takes you to get this appointment can vary from area to area.

A recent survey by Arthritis Ireland on patient’s experiences found that:

  • 27% of patients felt that their condition could be explained better
  • One-third felt that information on their treatment could be better
  • In 40% of cases, no printed information was given to the patient
  • A third never asked questions and most people didn’t take notes
  • Two-thirds said that they would find an information leaflet useful
  • Half of patients surveyed said they hadn’t prepared for their first visit

So how do you go about making the most of your time with the rheumatologist? Sometimes the hospital setting can be a little intimidating and when you go to your appointment your mind can go blank. You may not fully absorb the information and advice that the doctor is giving you.

The most practical approach is plan ahead and:

  • Draw up a list of questions to ask the doctor
  • Ask about the things that are worrying you, both medical and practical issues
  • Describe your pain clearly
  • Take a note of what the doctor says
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clearer explanations of what your doctor tells you
  • Ask for sources of further information, leaflets, websites etc
  • Bring a relative or friend along to give support

In some clinics you will be seen by a rheumatology nurse specialist, who can also provide you with information and education about your ongoing care.

Planning each outpatient visit will help you to make the most of your appointment and to gather valuable information to help in the self-management of your RA. Health professionals have a wealth of information and advice to share. They can be of most assistance in the limited time available if you ask the questions specific to your own situation.

Arthritis Ireland provides a booklet entitled ‘Let’s Talk Arthritis’ which can help you prepare for these appointments. It is available by contacting 01 6618188 or from