Go to your own doctor's surgery first. They can often provide all the help you'll need.
If necessary you may be referred to hospital to see a specialist, such as a rheumatologist or an orthopaedic surgeon. Your doctor or specialist may suggest that you see other professionals, such as specialist nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists or podiatrists.
GPs will treat many forms of arthritis and will refer you to your local rheumatology department if a rheumatological disease is suspected. They're also involved in prescribing repeat prescriptions for medications and may be involved in monitoring your condition and drug treatments by taking blood tests.
Consultant rheumatologists usually determine your diagnosis. They provide you with advice about the likely effects of your condition and prescribe the relevant treatments. They may also monitor your condition and oversee your treatment, working closely with orthopaedic surgeons if you require surgery.
Hospital doctors such as specialist registrars and junior doctors may support your consultant and rheumatology team.
Specialist rheumatology nurses provide you with information about your condition and its treatment. They can advise you about any changes to your lifestyle and help monitor the safety and effectiveness of your drugs. They may also be able to offer advice via a telephone helpline.
Physiotherapists teach you exercises to help improve your movement and reduce pain as well as help to improve your fitness. They also help you with pain relief through massage or splints and advise you on things like walking aids.
Occupational therapists advise you on how to protect and reduce the strain on painful joints. They help you find ways of carrying out everyday tasks. They will also advise you on personal or sensitive activities or concerns such as hygiene needs or more intimate relationship matters. They can advise you or your employer on your needs to remain in or return to work.
Podiatrists offer expert advice on feet and footwear, can correct common biomechanical problems in the feet, and help with foot or nail care if your arthritis makes this difficult.
Orthotists specialise in the use of appliances to support weakened joints. They recommend specialist shoes or insoles for problems in the feet or legs, and splints for hands and wrists. They can also assist with custom-made devices.
Help is available from a variety of other sources, for example pain clinics, social services and voluntary sector organisations, such as Arthritis Care.
There are many treatments and therapies available which can help with your arthritis. Make sure you seek professional advice and be prepared to follow it.
Support at work
Work is good for you. It helps your physical and mental wellbeing by giving you a sense of worth. If you're off work, it can be hard to return, especially if you're absent for a long period of time.
Occupational therapists are health and social care professionals who can improve your capabilities in the work place, by helping you deal with issues related to your condition and its impact on your work. Occupational therapists will work with your employer to ensure a smooth transition back intot the workplace.
A Disability Employment Advisor (DEA) at your local JobCentre Plus can help you find a job or gain new skills and tell you about disability friendly employers in your area.
At a JobCentre Plus you can enquire about the Access to Work grant, which can pay for practical support if you have a disability. The grant is aimed at helping people to start work, stay in work, move into self-employment or start a business. It can pay for special equipment and fares to work if you can't use public transport.
You could also contact your local branch of the Employment Medical Advisory Service (EMAS), which is part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and is staffed by doctors and nurses who offer advice on health matters relating to work.