Just Diagnosed: Now What?


This is a promising time for the treatment of rheumatic diseases. Now more than ever before, your rheumatologist has new, effective medications to treat the symptoms of your disease. Biologic drugs are revolutionizing the treatment of arthritis and rheumatic diseases, allowing you to lead a healthier, more active life, and avoid the permanent joint damage or deformity. Your rheumatologist also has new information about the root causes of many rheumatic diseases, helping the early detection of disease. New surgical techniques and artificial joints may also help restore function in joints damaged by rheumatic disease, allowing you to have less pain and better flexibility.

Here are the important steps you can take to boost your quality of life and health after your diagnosis:

Follow your treatment plan. Take your medications as your rheumatology providers have prescribed. If you experience side effects, let your care team know. Ask questions if you don't know how to take your medications properly. Also let the office staff know if you have lost your insurance coverage and can’t get your prescriptions filled.

Be actively involved in your own care. Keep notes between rheumatology office visits to track any symptoms or problems you may experience.

Lead a healthy lifestyle. You will feel better and your medications will work better if your overall lifestyle is healthy. Avoid smoking or using tobacco products. Get regular physical activity that is safe for your joints. Follow a healthy diet and keep your weight under control. Get enough sleep and find ways to ease stress.

Communicate openly with your care team. If you have questions or concerns about your treatment plan or long-term outlook, speak up at your office visits. Ask questions. Don’t hide problems that you may be having or dismiss any symptoms as minor. Some alternative treatments may have interactions with your prescription medications, so inform your rheumatologist before trying anything new.

Educate yourself. Your care team can direct you to reliable sources of information about your condition or tell you how to get information on classes, support groups, weight loss, or exercise.

Seek support. There are millions of other people who have your condition and share your experiences. These women and men can help you understand what you are experiencing and make you feel more comfortable with your diagnosis. Attend support groups of people with rheumatic disease.

Updated April 2023 by Kanika Monga, MD, and reviewed by the American College of Rheumatology Communications and Marketing Committee.

This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment of a medical or health condition.

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