Be clear about aches and pains

(NC)-You’ve been feeling lousy for weeks. What you thought were minor aches and joint pains or the flu are persistent. Your intuition tells you it may be serious. It could, in fact, be rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In which case, you need to consult your family doctor without delay and you need to prepare for that visit by formulating a clear description of each symptom.

Since the symptoms of RA can resemble common muscle and joint pain from overuse or wear and tear, even a doctor might not recognize the telltale signs.

So help your doctor by providing the fullest description of your symptoms. If your joints feel as though they are on fire, say so. If you are beset by extreme fatigue, tell your doctor. If you have swollen joints that cause the surrounding muscles and tendons to go into spasm, restricting the joints’ range of motion even further, tell your doctor that too. Always describe in plain English how each symptom feels when you experience it.

The accuracy of your doctor’s diagnosis will be determined by how well you describe your symptoms. This is critical since your doctor is gatekeeper to the specialized services of a rheumatologist. If your doctorhinks you may have RA, every effort will be made to get you an early appointment with a rheumatologist, because early diagnosis and treatment are essential if the disease is to be controlled.

The likelihood of controlling RA is better today than ever before as science develops new medicines, such as the latest biologics, specifically for managing rheumatoid arthritis.

“You must describe your symptoms in detail from the time they started and whether they’re worse now, and in what way,” says Anne Dooley of Saskatoon, who was diagnosed with RA in 1996 and is vice-president of the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance, an advocacy group. Anne strongly recommends writing down your symptoms and when they started. The exercise will likely jog memories. Keep a calendar handy, too. You get the idea: Go to your doctor prepared.

For more information and practical advice about RA, contact The Arthritis Society in your area, toll-free, at 1-800-321-1433. Or visit the Arthritis Canada website at Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) provides education and training to people with arthritis. Visit for further information.

Here are some basic questions you should try to answer, if you are experiencing painful joint symptoms:

  • Are you experiencing symptoms in more than one joint?
  • When did the joint symptoms start?
  • Have the symptoms improved at all, or are they worse?
  • Do the affected joints appear red, swollen and feel hot?
  • Are the same joints affected on both the left and the right?
  • Do you feel like you have a low-grade fever?
  • Are you experiencing unexplained deep fatigue?
  • Are you experiencing morning stiffness?

Write down the answers and take them to your doctor.

– News Canada