How to Be a Prepared Patient

<b>How to Be a Prepared Patient</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Aches and pains aren’t always readily attributable to a particular disease, and receiving a medical diagnosis often takes more than one doctor’s visit. Doctor-patient teamwork can help facilitate an efficient and proper diagnosis. Becoming an advocate for your own health and knowing the right questions to ask your doctor can help.

How can you take a more active role in helping your doctor understand your health condition? One simple solution provided by the Arthritis Foundation is to “Take P.A.R.T.

P – Prepare a list of questions, concerns and symptoms to discuss. Keep a detailed journal of your symptoms, including the times they occurred and associated environmental factors. For example, was a particular pain triggered by a certain food or activity?

A – Ask questions during your appointment. It’s a good idea to bring a list of questions with you, as well as a friend or family member to ask questions you may not have identified.

R – Repeat what your doctor recommends so you can be sure you understand. Ask for written instructions.

T – Take action. Inform your doctor of your lifestyle and habits, as well as any concerns and preferences, so a treatment plan can be customized to your specific needs.

“Patients who track their symptoms are better prepared to communicate effectively with their doctors,” said Dr. John Klippel, CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. “Accurate information helps both parties work together to determine the best possible treatment options.”

Fostering open communication with one’s doctor is particularly important for patients with hard-to-diagnose diseases like the autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as symptoms can be attributed to other medical conditions. Furthermore, there is no single diagnostic test for RA.

There are programs that help patients and doctors work together to manage health conditions by communicating openly. The Arthritis Foundation’s Let’s Talk RA program, sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, offers national meetings, educational podcasts and a communication kit that includes step-by-step discussion tips, as well as a symptom tracker that RA patients can use with their rheumatologists -; all at no cost.

The Let’s Talk RA communication kit can be ordered at no charge through the Arthritis Foundation’s Web site, or by calling 1-800-283-7800.

Understand Your Prescriptions

<b>Understand Your Prescriptions</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – To the average patient, visiting a doctor’s office can be overwhelming. Patients may encounter several doctors, hear confusing medical jargon and leave with multiple prescriptions for unfamiliar drugs.

Patients who understand the medicines they take, and why, stand a better chance of improving their health and saving money. Pharmacists can play a key role in helping patients achieve these goals.

Each year, the U.S. health care system spends more than $177 billion to treat patients suffering effects from the inappropriate use of medications. Most of these incidents could be avoided if patients better understood their prescriptions.

Mark Brueckl, assistant director of pharmacy affairs at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), an organization that promotes sound medication management principles and strategies to improve health care, offers the following tips for patients:

* Review your entire medication history with your doctor and pharmacist. Compile a list of all the drugs that you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter therapies and dietary supplements. Note any allergies or problems you have had with medications.

* Ask lots of questions. Before filling a prescription, make sure that you understand what your medication is for, including its side effects and potential risks. Talk to your pharmacist about how to take the drug and what could happen if you do not take it correctly.

* Be prepared. Consider bringing a family member to serve as your advocate at both the doctor’s office and the pharmacy counter when starting on a new medication. Use your health plan’s 800 number to speak with a knowledgeable clinical pharmacist from the comfort of your home.

* Consider the alternatives. If you are experiencing problems with a prescription, ask your doctor or pharmacist if a different medication is available, including lower-cost generics.

* Learn more about your medications. Information is available online from medical references such as WebMD and the medicine’s manufacturers. Many health plans and pharmacy benefit managers also offer online resources with clinical and cost information about your drugs.

* Find out if you’re eligible for a medication therapy management (MTM) program offered by your health plan. MTM allows pharmacists to review a patient’s overall medication therapy and then work with physicians and other providers to improve therapeutic outcomes.

For more information, visit

After-Shingles Pain: Significant Impact on Elderly

<b>After-Shingles Pain: Significant Impact on Elderly</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – JoAnn Jones (name changed to protect patient privacy) first noticed the pain in her upper right shoulder and back. She initially went to her chiropractor, thinking it was related to lower back pain, but as the pain grew over the next five days, she knew it was something more serious. When she awoke the fifth morning with a rash covering parts of her body, her doctor immediately put her on an antiviral medication for shingles. The rash eventually faded, but the pain did not.

“It’s a devastating illness, a chronic condition that you live with 24-7,” explains Jones about her postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), or after-shingles pain.

Ms. Jones is not alone in her struggle. Every year, approximately 1 million Americans develop shingles, or herpes zoster. Distinguishable by a rash and blisters that most commonly occur on the torso — chest and back — waistline, upper arms or side of the face, shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox, the varicella-zoster virus.

One-in-five people diagnosed with shingles suffer complications resulting in PHN, or after-shingles pain resulting from nerve damage caused by the virus. PHN pain, which may last for months or sometimes even years, can be devastating to those it affects.

“PHN pain can erode a person’s quality of life, especially for elderly patients,” says Dr. Christopher Gharibo, director of Pain Medicine and assistant professor of Anesthesiology at NYU School of Medicine, “The pain can make everyday activities, like bathing or dressing, excruciating. Chronic pain often leads to serious depression. In fact, PHN is the most common cause of pain-related suicide in the elderly.”

PHN disproportionately affects the 50-and-over population and people with weakened immune systems. In fact, shingles patients age 50 or older have a more than 50 percent chance of developing PHN, and patients age 80 or older have an 80 percent chance of developing the condition.

Ms. Jones urges, “If you are over 50 and have unexplained pain, ask your doctor if it might be from shingles.” Early treatment for shingles could lessen or prevent the duration of shingles and lower the risk for PHN.

If you think you or someone you know might be suffering from shingles or PHN, talk to your doctor immediately. You can learn more about shingles and PHN by visiting


Seniors More at Risk for Anemia: Know the Signs and Symptoms

<b>Seniors More at Risk for Anemia: Know the Signs and Symptoms</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – It is estimated that one in 10 people over the age of 65 is anemic. Anemia is the most common blood disorder and a serious medical condition, although many patients may mistake its symptoms for daily fatigue and stress. In fact, many patients do not realize that they are anemic until they take a blood test.

Because anemia occurs when your body lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to your organs and tissues, it can make you feel tired and weak. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, pale or yellow skin, dizziness, cold hands or feet and headaches.

As people age, the risk of developing anemia increases. “While anemia can sometimes be the result of poor nutrition, it can also be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition, such as cancer or kidney disease,” says Nancy Berliner, M.D., president of the American Society of Hematology. “It is very important to consult your doctor if you suspect you are anemic, because even mild anemia may be linked to other diseases requiring treatment. Furthermore, in order to properly treat the anemia, it is important to understand what is causing it.”

Nutritional anemia (when you do not have enough vitamins like folic acid in your diet) can be prevented by healthier eating habits. Look for iron-rich foods, like beef, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruit and nuts. In addition, good sources of folic acid include citrus juice, legumes and fortified cereals. However, Dr. Berliner cautions that older adults should not take iron supplements unless instructed by a doctor.

“Iron deficiency anemia is almost always the result of blood loss, and it is important to understand the cause of the blood loss. Taking iron may temporarily fix the anemia, but it will also delay proper diagnosis of the real problem. Although iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia worldwide, it accounts for less than one-third of anemia in elderly patients, and delay in seeking a doctor’s opinion may delay the diagnosis of a more serious condition. The sooner you talk with your doctor, the sooner you can find out what is wrong and how to treat it,” said Berliner.

If you are diagnosed with anemia, your doctor can determine your treatment and, depending on your condition, may refer you to a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood disorders.

For more information, visit