If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you might need to see a few different doctors to successfully treat all of your symptoms – and you may be wondering where to start. Do you see a dietitian? An orthopedist? A psychiatrist? Many people who have RA have found that assembling a “wellness team” that approaches RA from different angles is an effective way to manage. Here are 7 types of health-care professionals who treat RA from different perspectives:
Primary Care Physician
This is usually the first doctor you see for general medical care and treatment, preventative care, minor injuries, and chronic illnesses. Your primary care physician will probably diagnose your rheumatoid arthritis, then he or she may recommend a variety of specialists for you to see.
A rheumatologist specializes in joint, muscle, and bone disorders and is one of the most knowledgeable resources you will have when it comes to RA. Your rheumatologist will use your medical history, physical examinations, X-rays, and blood tests to evaluate your situation and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Your primary care physician may refer you to an orthopedist. Sometimes referred to as orthopedic surgeons, these specialists treat conditions of the musculoskeletal system through surgical and nonsurgical procedures. They focus on the areas of the body that are affected by RA and are experts in joint-related injuries and illnesses.
Physiatry, which is also known as physical medicine and rehabilitation, helps patients recover the loss of movement and functionality caused by illness or injury. Through consultation with a good physiatrist, you will be able to incorporate exercises that target the areas of the body most affected by your RA flare-ups.
Occupational medicine specialist
These specialists are dedicated to employment-related health and safety. Their expertise is recognizing specific workplace conditions that pose a risk to a patient’s condition. If you have one of these specialists on your wellness team, you may be able to identify and eliminate certain environmental factors that are especially problematic for RA sufferers.
Psychologists are not physicians, but they can still be a valuable member of your wellness team. They typically hold a Ph.D. in psychology and are trained to treat issues such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and the emotional effects of chronic illness. Although psychologists cannot prescribe medication, having a qualified counselor with whom you can discuss your emotional state due to RA can be just as important as the doctors that will treat your physical symptoms.
Registered dietitians are trained to help patients prevent and treat disease and maintain good health through proper nutrition and diet. An R.D. can modify your diet and improve your nutritional habits to help eliminate inflammation and improve your RA symptoms. For many, finding a good dietitian is just as important as finding the other members of their team, since R.D.s focus on long-term goals and overall health, not just the treatment of RA.