General Practitioners Need Basic Rheumatoid Arthritis Information

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Basic Rheumatoid Arthritis information is lacking in too many GP’s

Sarcasm sign with Murphy's Law graphittiMurphy lurks – looking for a party to crash. (I have ways of dealing with him – read more here.) So, of course my good GP was on extended leave for the last few weeks while I’ve been trying to get every little medical duck in a row before traveling… *She sticks out tongue.*

That’s how I ended up yesterday in the office of a General Practitioner (GP) I’ve never met before. It was a 25 minute office visit, but I want to focus like a laser on the dumb things he said about RA. Please don’t worry about me – I’m not upset about it because he’s not my regular doc. My Good GP is just that: he does a good job of helping to keep me as healthy as possible. Consider this blog as an academic exercise.

A lack of Rheumatoid Arthritis information can lead to some pretty awkward conversations

List of things the GP said about RA:

  • “Why did you fail the TNF’s?” He asked this question four different times! I told him that the treatments failed me because they did not relieve my symptoms and my RA continued to progress. He scratched his head.
  • “Why don’t you think they worked? What do you mean the RA progressed?”
  • “What – you don’t have pain right? You have no deformity. Your hands are not disfigured.”
  •  “Why don’t you take an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medicine on a regular basis to deal with this pain instead (of all those TNF’s?)?”
  • “You don’t look like you have RA.”
  • “Are you seeing a rheumatologist for this?”
  • “Why haven’t you taken – what is that…? K- Kiner Kineret…?”

What is the danger of a GP lacking Rheumatoid Arthritis information?

1) Well, pain for one. He roughly examined a few joints out of curiosity. This didn’t relate to the cause of the visit. I told him the joints all hurt, but he scoffed. I’m a veteran at that so, like I said, I’m fine. I’m actually smiling about how little it upset me this time. I know that’s because I already have good care from my Smart Dr. Rheum and the Good GP.

2) Delay in treatment, for another. Just imagine if I had been yet undiagnosed, like so many of us were, for years. Or imagine if I had been newly diagnosed and fearful of treatment like many patients I meet. I would have been pretty discouraged by the time I left.

We once discussed a study about “ignorance of GP’s about RA” published last February in the UK (I can’t find that post tonight. I’ll add your name to the free t-shirt contest (over now; sorry) if you can find the missing post on the blog!) Anyway, here’s what one article said,

Doctors’ ignorance means that patients with the condition visit a GP on average four times before they get referred to a specialist – while a fifth visit a GP eight or more times before referral. Guidelines state that patients should receive treatment within three months of the first symptoms appearing. But the average wait is nine months – and this has not improved in six years…And they said there was a dangerous lack of public awareness on the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which means people delay seeking help.”

Postblog:Personally, this encounter with yet one more GP who doesn’t “get” RA just makes me more determined to do whatever I can to change this. Some things I will try: 

  • I will speak the truth in a clinical setting to doctors who don’t believe in the real RA.
  • I will not feel defensive about whether my RA is real or painful, but state the facts.
  • I will continue to share fiercely but politely with doctors through the blog and social media about the RA patient experience.

Recommended reading:

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 4th, 2010 at 6:00 am and is filed under Reality Check. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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