5 Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Psoriatic Arthritis
Medically reviewed by Ana-Maria Orbai, M.D.
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Going to the doctor is always a bit overwhelming—and it can all happen so fast. There might be a million thoughts running through your head, but you inevitably walk out of the doctor’s office realizing you forgot to ask at least half the questions you still have.
And when you have psoriatic arthritis, understanding your condition and treatment is important in helping you manage your symptoms. Considering all this, it makes sense to bring a list of questions and/or notes to your visit, so you don’t forget a thing.
Whether you’re newly diagnosed or are switching to a new rheumatologist or medication, these are the questions you’ll want to ask before leaving that doctor’s office.
“Psoriatic arthritis is a long-term condition,” points out Navya Parsa, M.D., a board-certified rheumatologist at Columbus Arthritis Center in Ohio. “Having a good understanding of the disease and its different manifestations will help you along the way.”
What Body Parts Are Affected, and Could Others Become Affected?
It’s important for new patients to pinpoint what symptoms of psoriatic arthritis they presently experience and discuss with their rheumatologist how these may evolve over time, says Parsa. That means asking the doctor which joints are affected, whether the disease is limited to your skin and joints, and whether other body parts, such as tendons and the spine are affected. There’s also potential for organs to be involved, causing problems such as inflammatory eye disease; or for the bowel to be involved, causing inflammatory bowel disease.
Knowing these answers can help you understand the basics of your disease, Parsa says.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
Once you get over the initial shock of your diagnosis, it’s important to understand if your condition can be controlled with treatment, says Frank Migliore, D.O., a rheumatologist at AHN Rheumatology in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.
Not only is it important to find out what prescription treatments your doctor recommends, but also if there are non-prescription options that can help, such as OTC anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen, or natural therapies like massage and acupuncture.
And, if you’re reluctant to treat your psoriatic arthritis, ask what would happen without treatment. Your doctor can help you decide whether it’s the time to start treatment, if you haven’t already.
How Are You Monitoring Disease Progression?
If you’ve dealt with psoriatic arthritis long-term and are newly seeking care, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor how severe your disease is and how much damage has already occurred. Psoriatic arthritis can be a destructive, inflammatory arthritis and damage that has already occurred due to the condition cannot be undone, explains Parsa.
That’s not a reason to panic, though. Parsa says there are treatment options that can help prevent the progression of disease. “Talking to your doctor about what treatment options are out there and having a clear understanding of the goals of therapy is important.”
How Is My Health Being Affected by Psoriatic Arthritis?
For those who have had psoriatic arthritis for a long time and have been receiving treatment, Parsa suggests thinking about how psoriatic arthritis might affect other areas of your health.
“For instance, inflammatory conditions increase the risk of cardiovascular disease,” she explains, encouraging patients to talk to their doctors about ways to stay heart healthy. “Also, talk to your doctor about any exercises, supplements, or vitamins you might be taking.”
What Can I Expect When Taking Mediation?
If you’re taking medication for your psoriatic arthritis, find out what side effects people taking it may experience, and ask your doctor how to monitor for those side effects, Migliore suggests.
Understand whether you should expect to take the medication indefinitely, or if you should expect to switch to another treatment at some point. When you go back for follow-up appointments, it never hurts to ask if there have been any new treatments developed that could help your condition, as well. Medications can often be changed or adjusted.
It’s also important to update your doctor any time you’re diagnosed with any other condition, since other health concerns or medications can potentially affect your disease or treatment regimen, Migliore adds.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Unfortunately, there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis. While there are wonderful treatment options available, this is most likely a condition you will be dealing with for the rest of your life. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to see a rheumatologist you feel comfortable with and whom you trust as you work together to manage this disease.
Perhaps the most important questions to ask when seeing a new doctor for the first time are the ones you pose to yourself after the initial appointment.
- Is this someone you feel you can trust with your healthcare long-term?
- Did you feel heard during your appointment?
- Did the appointment seem rushed, or was time taken to answer your questions and ensure you were comfortable before leaving?
- Did the practitioner or someone on their staff follow up on your results and plan of care after the appointment?
“Having a good understanding of your disease will help you manage it to the best of your ability,” Parsa says. “You shouldn’t be afraid to ask your doctor any questions you might have about symptoms, treatments, adjunctive therapies, or even supplements.”
Having a doctor who is prepared to answer those questions and walk you through your next steps will be key in your management of this disease. If you don’t feel that connection, you may want to consider trying to find a new rheumatologist.
After all, this is the person you are going to be asking all your psoriatic arthritis questions for years to come.
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