If you are having joint symptoms that cause concern, there are good reasons to see a doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis.

Here’s a quick guide to help you decide when getting to the doctor for a diagnosis should be a priority.

When to See a Doctor If You Are Having Joint Symptoms

Watch for these joint signs and symptoms:

  • Pain, swelling, or stiffness in one or more joints
  • Joints that are red or warm to the touch
  • Joint tenderness or stiffness
  • Difficulty moving a joint or doing daily activities
  • Joint symptoms that cause you concern

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Joint symptoms that last three days or more
  • Several episodes of joint symptoms within a month

When Prompt Diagnosis Matters

People are often surprised to learn that “arthritis” isn’t a diagnosis. It’s a general term that covers more than 100 diseases and related conditions. If you do have arthritis, knowing which type of arthritis is the first step in getting the right treatment and management plan for your situation.

Some types of arthritis require prompt action. If you have a type of arthritis that can cause permanent joint damage, getting treatment quickly can help preserve joint function and prevent other serious health problems.

On the other hand, infrequent or mild joint pains may not require a special or urgent doctor visit. While it’s good idea to talk with your doctor about your joint health and risks for arthritis, in general, you might be able to save the conversation for your next check-up.

Which Health Care Provider to See

If you’re having joint symptoms that cause concern, an appointment with a primary care practitioner is a good place to start. But sometimes arthritis is difficult to diagnose. You might need to see a specialist. Rheumatologists are specialists in arthritis and diseases that involve bones, muscles and joints. They are trained to make difficult diagnoses and to treat all types of arthritis, especially those requiring complex treatment.

After Diagnosis

After diagnosis, a nurse educator or a health care provider who understands arthritis can educate you on your medication plan, if appropriate, and how to manage your arthritis on a day-to-day basis. She can also direct you to helpful resources, such as those provided by the Arthritis Foundation, including information on arthritis and daily living as well as community contacts.

Where to find a rheumatologist, an expert in arthritis and related conditions: