While pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints may indicate something as innocent as a slight strain, it could also be an early sign of arthritis. If you experience any prolonged feelings of pain or inflammation in your joint then it is important that you visit your GP who will be able to test for arthritis.
Here are a few simple tips to help you get the most out of your GP visit:
- Be prepared: Before your appointment, think of ways to describe your symptoms, write down your questions and any changes in your condition.
- Be confident. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If something is confusing then repeat it back to the doctor and ask him/her to explain more clearly.
- Two heads are better than one: Bringing a family member or friend will help you relax and remember to ask the right questions.
Download our Let's Talk Arthritis information booklet for more information on communicating with your doctor
Your health professional will make an arthritis diagnosis on the basis of your symptoms, a physical examination and medical tests. In some cases your GP will be able to give you an immediate diagnosis or they may have to refer you to a rheumatologist or orthopedic surgeon.
Testing for osteoarthritis (OA)
Your GP will:
- Check for any bony swellings and creaking joints, any restricted movement, joint tenderness or instability.
- Give you a blood test to rule out other types of arthritis.
- Perform X-rays to confirm OA and to see how much damage has occurred.
An osteoarthritis diagnosis means that your GP will be your main contact for managing your condition. You may also be referred to a physiotherapist for advice on keeping your joints mobile. If your arthritis is severe, the GP can refer you to a rheumatologist, orthopaedic surgeon or pain specialist.
Living with Osteoarthritis will tell you more about what to expect when you visit your GP.
Testing for rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Your GP will:
- Examine your joints and skin, and test your muscle strength.
- Carry out blood tests looking for inflammation.
- Perform X-rays to find signs of damage to joints and bones.
A rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis means that your GP will refer you to other healthcare professionals, including a rheumatologist and physiotherapist. You will also be prescribed drugs to control the condition and reduce the inflammation. Download are booklet on Drugs and Complementary Therapies for more information arthritis tests and arthritis diagnosis. The booklet Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis will tell you more about managing your condition.
You can also contact the Arthritis Ireland helpline on 1890 252 846 with any questions you may have on any aspect of arthritis.
Things to remember...
Being diagnosed with arthritis can be a very intimidating experience, especially if you don't know where to turn for help. Initial feelings of fear and anger are a completely normal first reaction but, by taking the right steps, a diagnosis of arthritis does not have to alter your quality of life.
Ring - If you are looking for confidential support and information from people who have experienced an arthritis diagnosis firsthand you should contact the Arthritis Ireland helpline on locall 1890 252 846.
Learn - Learning about your condition should help you to put your mind at ease, but take care that what you read comes from a reputable source. Arthritis Ireland's information booklets can be a good place to start, as can some of our frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Partnership with health professionals - Once you have been diagnosed prompt action will help you to avoid further damage to your joints so it's important that you work in partnership with your doctor to put together a treatment plan that best suits you.
Self Management - Sign up to one of our Living Well with Arthritis self management programmes where you will learn the simple steps that make a big difference to people with arthritis.
Talk: Chatting to friends and family, but also to other people who have arthritis, can be a big comfort. A great way to meet people with arthritis is the Arthritis Ireland branch in your area or by signing up for the Living Well with Arthritiscourse.
Help yourself - However arthritis affects you, there is always something that can be done. As well as your medical treatment, a healthy diet and regular exercise are an essential part of controlling arthritis symptoms.
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