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Debating When To Call the Doctor

"Call if anything changes," my doctor will say at the end of my appointment.

Hearing that is such a friendly reminder. Having a good relationship with your rheumatologist is vital for anyone with arthritis. It's so important to be able to reach out and get a response when you need help.

But, when you live with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), that advice can be a little challenging. Through the years, there are times when it can feel hard to know if things are "bad enough" to call the doctor.

My condition is constantly in flux, with good-ish and bad days. Not to mention, it seems like there's no end to weird symptoms, comorbidities, and even medication side effects.

Knowing when to call your doctor for new or worsening symptoms

When is the right time to call? For me, it's when you start to notice new symptoms (even if you're suspicious it's a PsA-related issue) or when typical symptoms start to get more severe.

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I've had my fair share of calling the doctor for simple or common issues. I remember being worried that my swollen heels and never-ending fatigue were unique issues, only to find out they were associated with my PsA.

After those experiences, I sometimes hesitate to call: I don't want to waste anyone's time and come off as if I'm overreacting. But I try not to feel like I'm bothering the doctor when this happens.

It is better to err on the side of caution. Calling and checking means new symptoms can be noted in your chart and checked at your next appointment.

When typical symptoms change

The other instance in which you should call is when you notice typical symptoms change. As I mentioned earlier, with PsA, your symptoms may fluctuate a lot, but you may have a standard range of fluctuation.

One weird benefit (I use the word 'benefit' loosely) of this disease is I've learned to become very in tune with my body. I can often feel things come on early, whether it would be a flare, a cold, or something else.

Sometimes, usual symptoms get worse during a nasty flare. But when I start to become concerned is when typical symptoms begin to feel "off" or different than usual or when things get more severe.

The importance of keeping your doctor updated

Recently, I was reminded why keeping your doctor posted is essential. For the past months, I've been struggling with fatigue.

So, when I started experiencing more fatigue, I didn't think much of it initially. I mentally prepared myself to hunker down for a potential flare.

However, I quickly noticed that the fatigue felt different than usual and impacted me more severely. I didn't quite have chest pain, but I did feel all the fatigue in my chest.

Thankfully, I had a rheumatology appointment coming up. My pre-appointment bloodwork showed that I was anemic, and a few weeks of B12 supplements fixed everything.

Had I just assumed it was a flare, my anemia might've gotten a lot worse and could've led to more problems.

It's okay to call your doctor when concerned

It's always okay to call your rheumatologist if you notice any unusual changes. If you feel like something isn't urgent, many hospitals now have patient portals where you can send a one-off message.

Never ignore new symptoms or existing ones that seem to change. Even if everything ends up fine, it's better to be safe than sorry!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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