The Benefits of Keeping a Symptom Journal for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Keeping track of your symptoms may help you notice trends in your rheumatoid arthritis.

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When you’re managing a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis, you may experience a lot of ups and downs. You may have flares when you have new or worsened symptoms. You might have long stretches of time with little or no symptoms. But when you visit your healthcare provider, it may be hard to remember all the little details of what you’ve been experiencing.

That’s where a symptom diary comes in. This is a place where you can log what symptoms you’ve been having over a period of time.

What are the benefits of using a symptom diary for rheumatoid arthritis?

You’re the one experiencing your symptoms, which means you have the best idea of how rheumatoid arthritis is affecting you.

Despite this, it’s easy to forget the nuances of what is really happening each day. It’s also easy to miss small, gradual changes over time. Research has shown that people who use symptom diaries can more easily recall and describe their symptoms.

Tracking your rheumatoid arthritis in a symptom diary may help you:

  • Identify your triggers
  • Monitor new symptoms and when they started
  • Recognize patterns and trends
  • Monitor side effects of your treatment
  • Evaluate how well your treatment is improving your symptoms
  • Communicate with your healthcare provider
  • Feel more in control and involved in your treatment plan

How do you keep a symptom diary for rheumatoid arthritis?

There are different ways to keep a symptom journal. One option is to take an actual diary and add entries once or twice a day. It doesn’t have to be poetic: You can include the important information in bulleted form.

Similarly, you could create an electronic version in a word processing application. Then, print it out and bring it to your doctor’s appointments.

Another option is to download and print a symptom tracker sheet online. These symptom trackers have special formats to help organize your thoughts. This may help you remember to include all the important details.

Finally, you can log symptoms on a calendar or planner. This may be helpful if you’re someone who already uses a calendar, so it can easily fit into your current routine. This works best if the calendar or planner has large spaces for writing.

What should you track in a symptom journal for rheumatoid arthritis?

Some items you should track in your symptom journal include:

  • Pain level
  • How much difficulty you have doing daily tasks
  • Sleep quality
  • Mood
  • Diet (what you’re eating)
  • Side effects of your medication
  • New symptoms

Ask your healthcare provider if there are additional items you should track.

It may take time to reap the benefits of your symptom journal. Over time, you should start to see patterns that may help you and your doctor make important decisions about your treatment plan. That way, you can really find the right routine that helps you feel your best from day to day.