When it comes to multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment, you may have a team of doctors and specialists. However, your neurologist is considered the main person to go to for direct MS treatment. This is due to the fact that MS is a neurological disorder.
Still, simply having MS and seeing a neurologist for diagnosis and treatment doesn’t always transition into automatic trust. Even if you were referred to a specific neurologist by your primary doctor, you might not fully trust them just yet. Here are eight tips to help you build the trusting relationship you need with your neurologist.
1. Ask as many questions as you can
Visits with your neurologist are your chance to ask all the questions you need answered about your condition and treatment plan. Sometimes seeing a specialist can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first visit.
It may be helpful to write down your questions ahead of time so that you don’t forget to ask them. You’ll likely be surprised at how willing your neurologist is to take the time to answer these questions.
2. Express your expectations about honesty
The fact is that doctors of all specialties work with patients of varying personalities. If they don’t know you well yet, they might not want to appear as being blunt with you. It’s perfectly acceptable to state right away that you want full honesty at all times. This can open up the conversation even further so that your neurologist can share information with you without worrying about being too blunt.
3. Discuss all tests beforehand
Tests can be inconvenient and even uncomfortable at times. There’s a misconception that frequent tests are ordered unnecessarily. Before you make this conclusion, have a discussion with your neurologist about exactly why they want these tests done.
First, most MS patients need an annual MRI — this is to see if your condition is progressing. If your neurologist wants to schedule more MRIs between your annual test, ask them exactly why they want another one. It could be that they want to see if any new lesions have formed after a recent attack (relapse).
Blood tests and spinal taps are also sometimes ordered. However, these are primarily used as diagnostic tools in the earlier stages of the disease. Ask your neurologist why they want these tests done long after your diagnosis — the reasoning is likely related to checking out disease progression.
4. Schedule follow-ups as needed
Before you left your last neurology appointment, you were likely asked to make another one for a checkup. However, you don’t necessarily have to wait to see your neurologist until then. If you start experiencing new or worsening symptoms or if other concerns come up, then feel free to schedule another appointment. You may even be able to work some of your concerns out over the phone so you don’t have to pay for an additional appointment.
5. Ask for other referrals
Based on your condition, your neurologist might already have suggested another type of specialist, such as a physical therapist. If they haven’t made these suggestions, don’t be afraid to ask for them if you feel you need other support services. Aside from physical therapy, you may also need occupation or speech therapy, a dietitian, or a psychologist. Your neurologist may even have referrals to other entities, such as support groups of exercise clinics that specialize in MS.
6. Bring your support system with you
Your spouse or caregiver may come with you to your appointments as needed. This can also take away some of the mystery sounding your neurology visits by providing them with some insights into what’s going on with your treatment plan. They may also gain some helpful information, such as medication dosing instructions.
7. Stay in contact
Building a trusting relationship with your neurologist can be challenging if you only speak to them at your appointments. Many medical doctors now have electronic messaging systems where you can email them questions. Participating in this type of communication exchange can keep the conversation about your MS going so your future appointments don’t seem so “clinical.”
8. Don’t be afraid to question your neurologist’s conclusions
Yes, your neurologist is the professional here, but only you know how you really feel. If your neurologist recommends new treatments that you’re wary of, don’t be afraid to speak up about this. After all, they are a partner in your treatment plan, and not solely in charge of it. If something doesn’t sound right to you, your neurologist will more than likely be happy to hear you out and work with you to achieve the best plan for you.