Frequently asked questions
Concerns about your condition/treatment
What should I do if my arthritis is flaring?
Use maximum doses of pain relief, such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory drugs if prescribed: ask your GP for something stronger if necessary.
Rest the affected joints on a pillow or footstool and apply cold packs or ice if helpful. If you have no ice, a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel would do just as well, but be careful to avoid direct contact on the skin as this can result in burns.
Some people find hot packs more soothing but if your joints are already warm and swollen, cooling them down may be preferable.
If there is no improvement within 5-7 days contact your GP for further advice. Your GP may advise a course of oral steroid or an intramuscular steroid injection to settle your flare. If your GP feels this is warranted you may need to call the Rheumatology Advice Line.
My knee / shoulder / elbow is swollen and I think it may need aspirating and injecting, what should I do?
Ice packs may help to reduce the swelling.
Aspiration and injection of the joint(s) with steroid is sometimes helpful; however, if more than one joint is affected, your medication may need adjusting. Some GPs are able to perform joint aspiration and injection, however, if your own GP cannot do this, please call the Rheumatology Advice Line to discuss further.
I have injured myself; what should I do?
If you have suffered an injury please see your GP. If your GP has ongoing concerns they may refer you for further treatment.
Will smoking affect my condition?
Smokers are at increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, and patients with rheumatoid arthritis who smoke have worse arthritis than those who don’t.
Any inflammatory condition increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, and if you smoke that risk is increased further.
We strongly encourage you to stop smoking.
How do I find out my test results?
We will give you the results of any investigations at your next review, or sooner if appropriate. A copy of your results will be available to your GP.
When do I need to contact my GP?
Contact your doctor urgently if your joint becomes red and you have a temperature: this may suggest that your joint is infected.
If so you will need hospital treatment.
You may also need to contact your doctor if:
- your flare doesn’t begin to settle after a week or two
- you think you may need a joint injection
- your painkillers aren’t strong enough
- you need advice about steroids
- you have developed a side-effect from your medication.
Can I contact the Rheumatology team by telephone or email?
For any general medical enquiries you should contact your GP in the first instance.
The Rheumatology Advice Line is intended to supplement the advice of your GP, not replace it. Please see advice line/ email service link for more information.
Conception and pregnancy :What happens if I become pregnant / father a child?
Some of the drugs used to treat arthritis can harm an unborn baby. We recommend that you let your rheumatologist know if you are planning to become pregnant or father a child.
Your treatment may need to be changed before you stop using contraception.
If you have an unplanned pregnancy, and are stopping / have recently stopped taking regular medication for your arthritis, please seek advice from your rheumatology team as soon as possible.
Is there good information I can give my employer about my condition?
Please see ‘Useful links’ for good sources of information to share with your employer.
Can you sign me off work?
If you have been unwell, and not able to go to work you should see your GP for sick certificates.
If you have been admitted to hospital under the Rheumatology team we will provide you with your certificate before you leave the hospital.
If you have had orthopaedic surgery, the team responsible for looking after you will also provide this.
Can you complete my PIP paperwork?
The Rheumatology Consultants may be able to provide you with a letter of support for your PIP application. This should be requested in writing to you Consultants secretary. Please allow adequate time for this to be processed. The Rheumatology Nurse Specialists do not complete PIP paperwork.