Role of general practitioner in care of Arthritis

by Dr Vivek Billampelly

When we refer to a General Practitioner (GP), what we have in mind is a Family Physician. We imagine a person who not only looks after the minor ailments but also one who is a friend ,philosopher and guide. In the process a Family Physician is the key member in the term of care givers from diagnosing the various kinds of joint problems, relief of pain, referral to a specialist to follow up and rehabilitation, the Family Physician can determine a positive outcome.

It is very rewarding for a GP to diagnose arthritis in the early stages because he can make a wise choice of a pain killer which will suit the patient. By virtue of treating various medical conditions from childhood to adulthood a GP has knowledge of which anti-inflammatory (pain relieving medication) suits a particular patient. Along with this, the Family History of the affected person is known to the GP. This helps in diagnosing the arthritis which may have a hereditary origin.

A family physician has the big responsibility of helping the patient cope up with the disease. Spending a few moments with the patient to explain the meaning of arthritis, how a joint works, what symptoms are expected and how joint pain may affect day-to-day activities. Patients do feel comfortable speaking to their GP and may come out with their anxieties and apprehensions. Many myths and misconceptions about arthritis can be dispelled through this interaction with a GP. There may be personal issues which the GP may probe and also explain the financial burden which the patient may have. If the GP has diagnosed the arthritis, explained the prognosis and counselled the patient, there is definite acceptance of the condition, more compliance to the treatment plan and increased need to get back to daily living. When the GP is in touch with self help groups and addressing issues of daily living does help the rehabilitation problem.

Whenever a patient is referred to a specialist for arthritis, the patient is examined and evaluated, a diagnosis is made and management plans are decided upon. When the patient returns to the GP this plan is adhered if the GP pro actively becomes a part of the multi disciplinary team approach to management. The medicines may have different actions and effects which have to be explained in simple words. Many a times new drugs are introduced for a particular condition and the patients are worried of starting them for many reasons. In such a case ,the GP can learn about the new medicines and explain its benefits to the patients.

Having cordial relations with the patients' family members is of great advantage for a GP because she can involve the members in care and rehabilitation.

GP's are known to be friendly and approachable. For a patient of arthritis it is important to know that the GP is available for her during crisis. Pain Relieving Medications need to be given even at night. Before any surgical procedure patients need to be comforted and motivated by their GP's. There are so many roles a GP can play in a patient's life.

I hope that each patient with arthritis has a GP who can lighten the burden of the condition.