Cheat Sheet

Arthritis For Dummies

From Arthritis For Dummies, 2nd Edition by Barry Fox, Nadine Taylor, Jinoos Yazdany

Arthritis could manifest as anything from a mildly annoying creak in a joint to debilitating pain; and while there's no cure for arthritis, there are techniques to manage the condition. If you think you might have arthritis, prepare to talk to your doctor by rounding up your medical history and a list of questions you should ask. Arthritis treatment can be expensive unless you seek out ways to save your money. Also, be sure to talk to your doctor about any alternative therapies that you might want to try.

Diagnosing Arthritis: Prepare for Your First Doctor's Appointment

If you think you have arthritis, get the best chance for help by being fully prepared for your first doctor's appointment. Diagnosing arthritis — or any other medical condition — is easier if your doctor has your full medical history, including:

  • Any accidents or injuries that you've sustained

  • Diseases that run in your family

  • Illnesses you've had (especially recently)

  • Other problems, including recent weight loss, depression, sleep disturbances, aches and pain, skin changes, and fatigue

Before your talk to a doctor about arthritis, you should also consider compiling a list of questions you want answered. That list may include some of these:

  • How did you determine that I have this particular kind of arthritis?

  • What's causing my arthritis?

  • What kinds of treatment do you recommend?

  • What outcome can I expect?

  • Will I need surgery? If so, how long can I wait before I have it?

  • What will happen if I do nothing?

  • What will my treatment cost?

How to Save Money on Arthritis Prescriptions

The high cost of prescription drugs can be a real problem if you have a chronic condition like arthritis that requires a steady supply of medication. Luckily, you have several options for lowering the cost of your arthritis meds:

  • Review your medications and see which can be eliminated or replaced with over-the-counter varieties.

  • Ask your doctor if he has free samples of your prescription drugs.

  • Check out Medicare's Drug Discount Program.

  • Find out if you qualify for a drug assistance program.

  • Get a pharmacy discount card.

  • Buy generic versions of any prescription you can.

  • Buy your pills in bulk.

  • Ask your doctor if she will write the prescription at double-the-strength, and split the pills at home.

  • Compare prices at different pharmacies.

  • Consider online or mail-order pharmacies.

Talk to Your Doctor about Alternative Treatments for Arthritis

At least 40 percent of arthritis patients manage arthritis pain by using an alternative therapy, such as acupuncture, magnet or copper bracelets, and herbal supplements. Despite this large percentage of patients who use alternative therapies, however, about three-quarters of them haven't told their physicians what they're doing. Talking to your doctors about alternative treatments for arthritis can be difficult, but it's important.

Here are some tips to help you discuss alternative therapies with your physician:

  • Begin with the assumption that your physician will be supportive.

  • Ask what your physician knows about the therapy in which you're interested.

  • If your physician doesn't know about the therapy you like, offer him information — you can get material from many organizations right on the web.

  • If your doctor doesn't approve of the therapy you're interested in, ask for a detailed explanation.

  • If there's no time to discuss your alternative therapy during this visit, ask for another appointment — and pay for it, if necessary.

  • If your doctor does approve of the therapy, ask if she will write you a prescription. Your health insurance just might cover it.

  • If your physician refuses to discuss alternatives and you're using a nonconventional approach that works for you, get a new doctor.

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