Rheumatologist is an internist who received further training in the diagnosis (detection) and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions commonly referred to as rheumatic diseases. These diseases can affect the joints, muscles, and bones causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity.
Rheumatology is committed to providing diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for adults with rheumatic and immunologic diseases. These diseases vary from the simple to complex and mild to life-threatening. They include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pseudo gout and multiple other forms of arthritis, systemic lupus, vasculitis, fibromyalgia, chronic back pain, tendinitis and osteoporosis.
Autoimmune conditions occur when the immune system sends inflammation to areas of the body when it is not needed causing damage/symptoms. These diseases can also affect the eyes, skin, nervous system, and internal organs. Rheumatologists treat joint disease similar to orthopedists but do not perform surgeries.
When should I see a rheumatologist?
Earlier referral should be made if you have relatives with autoimmune or rheumatic disease (as these conditions run in families) or if the symptoms are significantly worsening over a short period of time. Some of the signs and symptoms can improve or temporarily resolve when initially treated but can return once the medication is stopped. If the symptoms continue to return, a rheumatology evaluation may be needed.
Although treatment should not be delayed while awaiting a rheumatology appointment, certain medications can improve symptoms and make a diagnosis more difficult.
Joint damage can occur if the symptoms of joint pain are ignored or not treated properly over a period of time. This damage cannot always be reversed with treatment and may be permanent. Do not delay appropriate evaluation.
What should I bring to my first rheumatology visit?
Please bring the following to your first rheumatology visit:
- Any previous lab and/or radiographic X-ray/ultrasound/MRI tests results for review (medical records are typically sent by the referring physician, but occasionally – despite best intentions – are not present. Sometimes tests need to be repeated to confirm the result)
- An up-to-date medication list with the specific dosages you are taking (include a list of medications you have already tried to reduce duplication of prior treatments)
- A list of allergies to medications
- Your family history, including any known relatives with rheumatologic/autoimmune disease