Your Healthcare Team
There are many healthcare professionals who can help you manage different aspects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Here are some of the professionals you may want to consult:
Primary care physician (PCP). This doctor is trained in internal medicine, family practice or some other general area of medicine. While PCPs can evaluate and treat arthritis, they may refer you to a rheumatologist for arthritis-specific care.
Rheumatologist. This doctor specializes in the treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints.
Physical therapist (PT). A physical therapist focuses on improving your mobility by helping you improve joint flexibility and muscle strength.
Occupational therapist (OT). Occupational therapists can help teach you how to do everyday tasks, like dressing and driving, in a way that minimizes pain and stiffness. They also recommend a variety of assistive devices.
Nurse. In addition to helping your doctors, nurses can explain the thinking behind your treatment plan and suggest practical ways to carry it out. If there’s something about your diagnosis or treatment that you don’t understand, your nurse is a good person to ask.
Podiatrist. These foot doctors are licensed to prescribe medication and do surgery on your feet or ankles. If your RA affects your feet, a podiatrist can prescribe special shoes or other devices that can help.
Ophthalmologist. This eye specialist can examine and treat you for possible complications caused by your RA.
Therapist/counselor. These talk therapy professionals can help you explore and cope with the emotional issues that can arise when you’re dealing with a chronic illness like RA.
Social worker. A social worker can help you find practical solutions to some of the problems you may encounter with RA, such as helping you navigate health insurance issues.
If you see a healthcare professional on this list that you think might be able to help but who isn’t currently on your team, talk with your doctor, who will be able to provide you with referrals. (You may want to check first with your insurance plan to see which services are covered.) When it comes to keeping RA under control, a team approach really helps!