Assembling Your Best Healthcare Team
One of the first steps in managing your NMO is assembling the best healthcare team for you. Having the support of friends, family, and significant others can be beneficial in your journey, however, having a professional team of caretakers that understands and listens to you can make a world of difference as you approach treatment options.
Here are some examples of professionals to seek out for your healthcare team.
Primary Care Physician (PCP)
Your primary care physician is often the first step in the process for someone who thinks that something might be wrong. Having a knowledgeable primary care physician who knows you well can make all the difference. Your PCP can point you in the direction of a neurologist or other specialists who would have some knowledge of rare neurological conditions like NMO, as well as potentially be a good fit for you personally.
Neurologists use physical exams and testing to diagnose and treat complex disorders of the brain and nervous system. Neurologists are different from neurosurgeons. They do not perform brain or spine surgery. However, these doctors often work closely together, sometimes in the operating room. Neurologists can specialize in various areas. Neurologists trained in neuroimmunology diagnose and treat neurological autoimmune or inflammatory conditions like NMO. A neurologist is the most likely doctor to diagnose a person with NMO. However, this is not always the case. A neurologist will most likely be the doctor who provides primary treatment for NMO. They may refer you to other specialists for certain parts of your treatment.
An ophthalmologist is a doctor specializing in eye care and vision. These doctors have completed additional training in diagnosing and treating conditions of the eye. Ophthalmologists are licensed to practice medicine and surgery. Like other doctors, ophthalmologists might also research the causes and cures for various eye conditions. Ophthalmologists that specialize in NMO are called neuro-ophthalmologists. These doctors specialize in vision and eye problems related to the nervous system, not the eyes themselves.
A urologist is a doctor specially trained in the diagnosis and management of diseases and conditions of the urinary system and physical problems of the kidneys. These doctors can treat anyone of any age and sex. They can have special certifications in various areas. Those with NMO may see a neuro-urologist, a doctor who specializes in neurologic urology. This subspecialty of urology focuses on disorders and conditions of the bladder, urinary tract, kidneys, genitalia, and adrenal glands as they relate to various brain and spine disorders.
Psychiatrist or therapist
It may seem odd to include these kinds of specialists on your healthcare team, however, they may be necessary at times to help you remain at your mental best. NMO can take a toll on your self-confidence and can lead to mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression. Being able to talk to a mental health expert about your concerns, frustrations, and worries can make a difference in keeping you strong.
While not everyone with NMO experiences a connection with their symptoms and their diet, some do report relief from symptoms or an increase in overall health while eating right and getting proper nutrition. A nutritionist may be able to help you discover what foods can keep you healthy.
Make sure your team works for you!
When you are putting together your healthcare team, remember that your doctor works for you! It is important to find someone you feel comfortable with that listens to your questions and concerns and treats you with respect. You can fire your doctor by finding another one!
Find out upfront if they have appointment times that work for your schedule. Ask their front desk staff about how long it usually takes to get an appointment and what are their policies around rescheduling. If you had an emergent situation, how soon could they see you? Do they ever have walk-in hours? Will they call in prescription refills for you or do they use an electronic prescription service? Ask how they coordinate your care with other doctors you may be seeing. There may be other questions that are important to you, write them down so you have them for your first visit.
Let us know who is on your healthcare team and how they impact your treatment options and overall experience with NMO.
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