The onset of unexpected symptoms from a chronic condition can be nerve-wracking. Sometimes, even receiving an initial diagnosis may not provide peace of mind. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, for example, the condition’s cause is still unknown, and symptoms can appear or disappear at any time. Therefore, it can be hard to tell exactly what you are dealing with when you experience flare-ups.
If you’ve been diagnosed with RA, you should feel confident the diagnosis is correct. Uncertainties about your condition can make you more susceptible to symptoms of anxiety. On the other hand, feeling confident in your diagnosis can help your mental health. “I was actually relieved when I got my full diagnosis,” shared one myRAteam member.
For some people diagnosed with RA, receiving a second opinion can bring some peace of mind. You may wonder, however, if seeking an opinion from a second rheumatologist is worth the extra time and energy.
|Have you ever sought a second opinion?|
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If you feel uncertain regarding your diagnosis or worried about what next steps to take, exploring treatment options with a second clinician may be a good option for you.
You know your body and your health better than anyone else. It is completely normal to want to seek confirmation from a second rheumatology professional about your diagnosis. Blood tests and other diagnostic tools are not always completely accurate in screening for RA. Therefore, you also may want information about additional diagnostic methods, depending on the criteria your first physician used to diagnose you.
A second opinion also can inform your RA treatment, for example, in terms of medications you’re prescribed. One myRAteam member shared that, when seeking a second opinion on their RA diagnosis, the doctor determined they also had osteoarthritis, which — unlike RA — is not an inflammatory condition. “That’s why Humira isn’t helping with my pain or stiffness,” they wrote.
Even if a second opinion doesn’t significantly alter your treatment plan, it can still be helpful for your peace of mind. According to Mayo Clinic, 40 percent of people with RA also experience symptoms that are not related to joint pain. RA is an autoimmune condition, so it can cause problems with the skin, eyes, and salivary glands. Given all the potential symptoms, you may hear a variety of opinions from people in your social circle about what you are experiencing. Getting confirmation from another specialist is the best way to put to rest any doubt.
When seeking a second opinion, you can start by asking your primary care doctor for a short list of health care providers they recommend. You can also ask people you know for suggestions. The process of finding a doctor can be daunting, so getting a recommendation from a trusted source can make you feel more secure in your decision.
If you do not know anyone else with RA or would prefer to look on your own, there are a number of databases you can use to research doctors. Your insurance company should maintain a listing of physicians who are part of your network. You can get names from there, then do independent research about the people on the list to see who might be a good fit.
When seeking a confirmed diagnosis from a rheumatologist, look for someone who is trained to detect symptoms in the disease’s earlier stages. This will help you get on the right track for effective RA treatment.
Watch Ashley Nicole talk about why you should be your own RA advocate.
Many insurance providers cover second opinions, so you should always check with your insurance representative before paying out of pocket.
Additionally, many hospitals now offer second opinion meetings virtually, such as Cleveland Clinic and Massachusetts General Hospital. If you do end up having to pay out of pocket, getting a virtual consultation can help you reduce other costs, such as travel.
Talking with professionals can help you feel more secure in your RA treatment. If you don’t feel comfortable after talking to one doctor, it is completely normal to want to speak to another.
“I was very scared and considered not taking [my prescribed medication],” said one myRAteam member of their diagnosis experience. “But after being told I would be completely disabled within 10 years, I decided to take it. So far I’ve taken six doses. Not much improvement yet, but I’m no longer scared of the drug like I was in the beginning.”
On myRAteam, the social network for people with rheumatoid arthritis and their loved ones, more than 191,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with rheumatoid arthritis.
Have you ever sought a second opinion? Share your suggestions in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on myRAteam.