Preparing for your appointment and diagnosis

You'll probably first bring your symptoms to the attention of your family doctor, who may refer you to a rheumatologist — a doctor specialising in the treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bone. As scleroderma can affect many organ systems, you may need to see a variety of medical specialists.

Before an appointment

Appointments can be brief. To make the best use of the limited time, plan ahead and write lists of important information, including:

  • Detailed descriptions of all your symptoms, including when they started and what makes them better or worse.
  • If symptoms come and go, such as colour changes to the skin, try to get a photo of the change to take with you to your appointment.
  • A list of all your medications and dosages, including nonprescription drugs and supplements.
  • Questions for the doctor, such as what tests or treatments he or she may recommend.

During an appointment

  • Don't be afraid to ask if you don't understand. For example,'Can you say that again? I still don't understand.'
  • If you don't understand any words, ask for them to be written down and explained.
  • Write things down, or ask a family member or friend to take notes.

Your doctor may ask some of the following questions:

  • Do your fingers become numb or change colour when you get cold or upset?
  • Do you regularly experience heartburn or swallowing problems?
  • Have your parents or siblings ever had similar signs and symptoms?

Before you leave your appointment

Check:

  • You've covered everything on your list.
  • You understand everything that the GP has said.
  • You know what should happen next – and when.

Ask:

  • Who to contact if you have any more problems or questions.
  • For copies of letters written about you – you are entitled to see these.

After your appointment

  • Write down what you discussed and what happens next. Keep your notes.
  • Book any tests that you can and put the dates in your diary.

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