Your Healthcare Team
Many people can be involved in your arthritis care. Your support group may be made up of a variety of health care providers, like a GP, rheumatologist and physiotherapist, together with a wider network of family, friends and Arthritis Ireland.
A varied team that provides both professional and personal care, can give you with great help in controlling your arthritis. However, it is important to remember that you are the most important member of that team and the aims and interests the people helping you should always reflect your own.
Here's a look at some of the potential members and what they do:
Your GP will take your health history and review your symptoms. To confirm the type of arthritis you have he or she will do a detailed health interview, a physical examination and tests such as blood work and x-rays. The information gathered will help to diagnose and develop your personal treatment plan. The GP will then discuss treatment options.
Rheumatologists are doctors that specialise in treating people with arthritis or related diseases that affect the joints, muscles, bones, skin and other tissues. You may be referred to a rheumatologist if you need special care or treatment. They can also refer you to other relevant health professionals.
Your Rheumatology Nurse
Nurses who are trained in arthritis care can assist your doctor in your treatment. They can also offer structured patient and family education and support services, including a telephone helpline. Some nurses are also skilled in prescribing medications and joint injections.
Your Occupational Therapist
Occupational Therapists (OTs) are health professionals who help people with arthritis to function independently - at home, in the workplace and in the community. They can teach you how to reduce strain on your joints while doing everyday activities, which may involve using splints or other assistive devices. OTs also teach practical stress management techniques to use in everyday life.
The best way to find out what exercises are best for you is to see a chartered physiotherapist. Physiotherapists have a complete understanding of how the body works and will work with you to design a treatment plan and exercise programme that meets your needs. In addition to exercise, they may also use manual or electrotherapy to help with symptom control.
Your Social Worker
Arthritis can affect many aspects of your life and, at times, can make simple tasks difficult. Family and friends may tell you how well you look - yet the truth is you are not feeling well. Social workers can help you and your family deal with these challenges.
Pharmacists are health professionals who dispense medications and can teach you the best way to use them. They will fill your prescription for medicines and can explain their actions and side effects.
Dietitians/Nutritionists can help people with arthritis learn ways to plan, prepare and eat balanced, nutritious meals that will help you in achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Ensure that the person you see is a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI).
Your Orthopedic Surgeon
An orthopedic surgeon is a doctor who is trained in surgical procedures that prevent or correct problems of the bones, joints and tissues around the joints. Remember that surgery for arthritis is seldom urgent but very helpful where there is severe disease.
Chiropodists/Podiatrists specialise in conditions affecting the feet. They can help you with footwear; nail care and orthotics (shoe insoles) if you have arthritis in your feet, legs or lower spine.
Before embarking on any type of surgery or beginning treatment with one of the biologic agents, it is important that you visit your dentist for a check-up so that any infections, cavities etc can be treated.
Psychologists can teach you ways to cope with any difficult emotions you feel as a result of your arthritis. They can also teach you techniques to assist with managing pain.