What Happens at the Doctor's Office?
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. Now, you’ll need to see your doctor regularly, so he or she can properly treat the disease. You might continue seeing your pediatrician, or you may start seeing a specialist. Pediatric rheumatologists specialize in treating young people with arthritis and other similar diseases.
Each visit will usually include questions, a thorough physical exam and possibly, some additional special tests. For those tests, you’ll probably visit a laboratory or a hospital.
By asking questions, your doctor can find out how you’ve felt between visits.
- Your doctor will want to know all about your symptoms since he or she last saw you. Have you had a flare? Are you feeling fatigued? Do any joints bother you that didn’t before?
- Your doctor will ask about any medication side effects you’ve experienced.
- Your doctor may also ask you questions about your medications, dosages and what they are used for. These kinds of questions are meant to keep you involved, so you can learn to manage your own healthcare.
Don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers during your doctor visits. It’s OK if your parents chime in to help. Still, make sure to pay attention and be part of the conversation. By participating, you can start taking charge of your own healthcare right now.
Much of the exam will involve checking your body for the physical symptoms of juvenile arthritis.
- Your doctor will feel each of your joints throughout your body – including joints that have not given you any problems. Why? A doctor can detect signs of swollen tissue and fluid buildup that are not always obvious to you and could point to a newly involved joint.
- Your doctor will move your joints to check passive range of motion, or how far your joints can be moved when relaxed.
- Your doctor might ask you to do things like walk around or pick up a paper off the floor. He or she may also watch your movements without alerting you first. This checks active range of motion, or how far you can move your joints yourself. Watching you move naturally helps the doctor see whether you have modified, or changed, any movements to avoid pain.
- Your doctor will check your body for other symptoms of juvenile arthritis, including nodules and rashes, and examine your eyes, too.
During some visits, your doctor may order laboratory tests or imaging tests to determine whether your medications are working properly and assess problems related to your disease.
- Some lab tests require urine, which means you’ll have to pee in a cup. For many other tests, a technician will need to draw blood using a needle. These kinds of tests help doctors monitor side effects of certain medications, such as those that can cause anemia. They also provide information about how your juvenile arthritis is progressing. If complications are developing, your doctor will know and be able to provide early treatment.
- Imaging tests let doctors see whether juvenile arthritis is causing long-term damage to your joints and bones. Bone scans, ultrasounds, X-rays and MRIs are all examples of imaging tests. For these tests, you may need to lie on a table or inside a big tubelike machine. Sometimes an injection can help patients remain calm and stay still, but for the most part these tests do not hurt. They are noninvasive, which means they take place outside your body.
Most people feel nervous about their first few exams to monitor juvenile arthritis – especially when they involve unfamiliar tests. After a while, though, you’ll get to know your doctor and start to feel more comfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions so you know exactly what’s going on. Eventually, these periodic visits will become a normal part of your routine.