Initial GP visit

A GP will ask several questions to determine what kind of inflammation a patient may have. Blood tests are often the next step.

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Initial GP Visit

Dr. Mona Marabani
President, Australian Rheumatology Association

I hope that the GP would know you well so that’s a good starting point. And so if you present and you’ve got something new like this, pain and swelling and stiffness in your joints that those concerns will be taken on board.

Dr. Marina Kang
General Practitioner

So for rheumatoid arthritis a patient may present with a joint condition coming in for that primary purpose or they may have come in for some other general consultation follow-up and then mention towards the end of the consultation that they have a painful swollen joint. So what we need to do is to differentiate between what’s important in that consultation from a patient’s perspective and also the fact that we’re trying to find patients who are dismissing their joint symptoms. Within the timeframe of that consultation I’d like to look at a little bit more of that particular joint sign that they have and if we don’t have time I generally get them to come back.

Dr. Irwin Lim

So when you see your GP, they’re likely to ask you a range of questions followed by examining you. And if the story sounds inflammatory they’re likely to then run a series of tests, usually blood test. Depending on those results and how confident they are about the diagnosis after examining you and assessing you, they may then make a referral to a rheumatologist.

Assoc. Professor Peter Youssef
Rheumatologist, Royal Prince Alfred Institute of Rheumatology and Orthopaedics, Sydney
Chair – Arthritis Australia Scientific Advisory Committee

When patients go to the general practitioner the general practitioner will want to know when the symptoms started. They will want to know whether there were associated symptoms such as a skin rash, a sore throat, fevers or sweats. The GP will also want to know whether there is a past history of psoriasis or whether the patients have had arthritis before. A GP will also want to know about whether there is a family history of arthritis.

Linda Bradbury
Nurse Practitioner, Rheumatology, University of Queensland
President, Rheumatology Health Professionals Australia

When you first go and see your GP, the GP is going to want to know what’s been going on with you so it’s really important to be very honest with the GP and tell them exactly what’s happened over the last little while. He’s going to want to know exactly the pattern of where the swollen joints and the painful joints area. All these are going to give the GP clues as to what actually is going on. So for example, if you’ve got swollen and painful joints on both sides of your body, that will point him in one direction. If it’s all just on one side, it will point him in a different direction. If your back pain is worse in the mornings and better in the evenings then that’s going to point him in one direction. If it’s the opposite the other direction. It’s really important that you think about where your issues are, where the joint pains are and you’re honest with the GP and tell them everything that you can think about.

Dr. Marina Kang
General Practitioner

We need to ask them about their joint symptoms, the history of whether anyone else in the family has had joint problems, how long they’ve had it for, what affects them, what improves the condition. Also some of the non-joint symptoms we need to ask them about their weight, whether they have fevers, whether they have had fatigue as part of their overall symptomatic concerns so we need to have a talk to them about their history from that perspective.


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