Rheumatoid Arthritis - When Do I Call the Doctor?

Rheumatoid Warning Signs

Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

Doctors pay for beepers. So what are these beepers for? This article is about a reason that my beeper battery commonly wears down. And I am happy that it is being used for this purpose!

People with rheumatoid arthritis can develop certain symptoms that are really warning signs of something occurring in their bodies that is not what the doctor expects to happen. These are signs that can also sometimes represent a significant danger. These "rheumatoid warning signs" are reasons to call the doctor so that they can be interpreted in light of the patient's overall condition. When the doctor who is aware of your condition hears of these symptoms he/she can determine whether or not they are serious and if any action should be taken immediately or in the near future.

Rheumatoid warning signs can represent a worsening or complications of the rheumatoid disease, side effects of medications, or a new illness that is complicating the condition of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis should be aware of these rheumatoid warning signs so that they can contact their health care professional before their health is jeopardized.

Here are some warning signs that I like my patients to call me about:

Worsening of joint symptoms: This includes more pain, more swelling, additional joint involvement, redness, stiffness, or limitation of function. The doctor will determine whether or not these are significant, not the patient. Sometimes, patients have just begun a medication and some minor increase in joint problems might be occurring while the medication is taking effect. However, worsening symptoms can also mean that the medications are not working and that they require adjustments in dosing or a change in the medications.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014