I have been diagnosed to have Rheumatoid arthritis. What next?
To fight Rheumatoid Arthritis, you have to understand the condition inside and out. Try to learn everything you can about this disease. It makes a huge difference if your initial experience of care is positive. As they say, a good beginning is half the battle won! Similarly, a correct diagnosis is the most important step.
1. Regular Blood Tests For Monitoring –
You will be requested to have regular blood tests. This helps doctors to identify if you are developing any side effects related to medications. Also, certain blood tests are requested to understand the response to treatment. Here are some commonly requested monitoring blood tests – CBC (Complete Blood Count), SGPT (liver function test) and ESR, CRP (inflammatory markers).
2. Quit Smoking –
Get advice and support on how to quit. Having Rheumatoid arthritis puts patients at increased risk of heart disease and smoking further increases this risk. Evidence shows that Rheumatoid arthritis treatment is less effective in people who continue to smoke.
3. Build Support –
Patients living with RA should discuss with family and friends the impact RA is having on their working life, emotional and mental health.
4. Access to the Multidisciplinary Team –
To help manage your RA you should have the opportunity to see specialist professionals including a rheumatologist, physiotherapist, dietician and psychologist if required.
5. Get Involved–
Try to get involved in your treatment. Show interest in understanding medications and symptoms. Learn more about your disease by joining a patient support group, reading information booklets, online forums or any other educational opportunities.
6. Access to a Specialist –
You should know how to get access to your doctor when you need it, for instance when experiencing side effects to medications or for help if you flare.
7. Exercise –
Ask your physiotherapist about an individual exercise programme designed for you. Exercise is essential and plays a key role in controlling the symptoms of RA including fatigue, pain, and referred pain. It’s also important to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet and appropriate weight.
8. Pregnancy –
Get information and specialist care if you are planning to have a baby. Your RA will need to be more tightly controlled and monitored during family planning for both prospective mothers and fathers.
In addition, the following are highly recommended for people living with RA
• Have your blood cholesterol and sugar measured.
• Have your blood pressure measured and recorded and set a personal target that is right for you.
• Have your eyes checked – yes RA can affect eyes as well.
• Limit sugar and salt intake in your diet.