Managing Your Rheumatic Disease
If you were recently diagnosed with a rheumatic condition, you may be feeling anxious, even a little overwhelmed. This is a natural response to an unexpected turn in the road.
What is the best way to handle these concerns? Know the facts. With proper treatment, you can manage this condition and still live a functioning and productive life.
Aside from medications, lifestyle changes are important to implement in your daily routine. Getting adequate exercise, ample rest, and good nutrition. It also means learning about your disease and taking steps to address your own needs.
What is rheumatic disease?
Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are a family of illnesses that can cause inflammation, changes in the joints, and pain in the surrounding structures. They also may make it difficult to do daily activities.
While the symptoms may vary, as a rule, these conditions are systemic conditions. Many target the musculoskeletal system, including the bones, joints, muscles, and tendons that contribute to function. In addition to this, they may also involve internal organs.
What can you do? Make your medical visit count!
- Plan ahead for your visits with your health care provider, and above all, communicate.
- Arrive with a list of your specific concerns.
- Consider bringing someone with you who can listen to the health care provider and take notes as appropriate.
- Respond to the medical professional's queries honestly and directly.
- Talk about your emotions, stress or discomfort if they are interfering with your lifestyle.
- Ask for a clearer explanation if you don't understand any recommended treatment, including benefits, instructions, and duration.
- Make a concerted effort to learn more about your condition and how best to cope with it. Ask about where to find reliable sources of information to learn more about your condition and about community resources.
- Feel free to ask questions about the cost and side effects of medications, treatments or other points discussed.
Find help and resources
Identify the team of medical professionals who will benefit you most and learn more about what they do. Initially, your rheumatologist (who has special training in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases) will probably work closely with your primary care provider. Once you are diagnosed, a number of other rheumatology health professionals are available to help you manage your condition, including:
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Health educators
- Social workers
- Orthopedic Surgeons
- Nurse practitioners/physician assistants
Exercising can help decrease pain, reduce disease symptoms, and make a substantial contribution to your overall flexibility, strength, and health. Plus, it can improve your mental outlook!
Pick a movement option that contributes to improved fitness and strength. There are various activities that can be included in an exercise program, such as walking, water aerobics, bicycling or dancing. Join friends, take along a book on tape or just get going. The trick is getting started and developing a routine. If the exercise path you are taking is strenuous, check with your physician, or physical therapist or occupational therapist first.
Above all, don't give up! Yes, this is a chronic condition and, no, it may not go away. But many, many patients with rheumatic diseases lead happy, fulfilling lives by learning, communicating, sharing, and taking a positive approach to coping with change.
Updated April 2023 by Mohammad Ursani, MD, and reviewed by the American College of Rheumatology Committee on Communications and Marketing.
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.