Updated 18 January 2017

Arthritis: when to get help

You know or at least suspect that you may have some form of arthritis. But have you had an open discussion with your doctor yet?

Arthritis is a frustrating problem that can sometimes be mistaken by the sufferer for muscle or joint injury or strain. Most people choose to ignore the symptoms, in the hope that they go away, but what starts out as just minor aches and discomfort can fast become a debilitation condition.

It’s important to get a proper diagnosis and to discuss your treatment options with your GP or specialist if you haven’t done so already. After all, with timely intervention and treatment, the pain of arthritis is something that can often be managed.

Before you doctor’s appointment

Before you make an appointment to talk to a medical professional, you may want to think back a bit about your symptoms. The further back you can recall your symptoms, the better it is for your doctor to prescribe a treatment that’s right for you.

The following quiz may be helpful in recalling your symptoms:

• My joint pain and stiffness has...
– gotten worse – been the same – improved

• The frequency of my symptoms has...
– increased – stayed the same – decreased

• Everyday activities such as getting dressed, walking and running errands have become...
– more difficult – about the same – easier

• My treatment provides symptom relief...
– not at all – sometimes – most of the time

If it’s the first time you seek treatment, expect a physical examination and possibly other tests. Your doctor may also ask you personal questions about your lifestyle, diet and family medical history. Open communication is key.

During your appointment

Make the most of your time with your doctor by preparing a set of questions, such as:

- Why do I have arthritis?
- What can be done about it?
- Could any of my chronic medication or supplements have an effect?
- Does my diet play a role at all?
- Are there any activities or exercises I should avoid?
- What treatment is best for me?
- Are there any side effects?
- How long will it take before my arthritis is under control?
- Should we schedule a follow-up meeting?

Don’t delay – make that doctor’s appointment now.

Read more:

Condom lubricant for joint pain?  Who knew!

Can the Pill relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms?


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Arthritis expert

Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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