If you have not been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, but suspect you may have it, it’s important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and begin any needed treatment as soon as possible.

If you’re experiencing joint pain – as most people do at least occasionally – and wondering if it might be rheumatoid arthritis, the following are clues that it may be. At the very least, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away to have it checked out.

•    Regular morning joint stiffness
•    Persistent joint pain that does not improve
    Joint pain that is getting worse over time
    Joints that are swollen, red, hot or tender to the touch
    Joint pain accompanied by fever
•    Several affected joints
    Joint problems that affect with your ability to move or function

If you have already been diagnosed with arthritis, it is important to maintain regular appointments with your doctor to monitor your disease and response to treatment. Your doctor will let you know how often he or she wants to see you. But if you have an obvious change in or worsening or symptoms or an adverse response to medication, it’s important to contact your doctor even if it is not time for your regularly scheduled visit.

What kind of doctor should I see for my rheumatoid arthritis?

Your primary doctor for rheumatoid arthritis should be a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is an internist (a doctor who specializes in internal medicine and treating adult diseases) who has additional training to diagnose and treat arthritis or related diseases that affect the joints, muscles, bones, skin and other tissues. Some rheumatologists may also have special training in pediatrics, orthopaedics, physical medicine, sports medicine or other medical fields.

While a rheumatologist is the best doctor to manage your RA, you will still need a primary care physician to manage other aspects of your health care. Unfortunately, having arthritis doesn’t make you immune to other health problems and may, in fact, increase your risk of some diseases.