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Rheumatology is the branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases. The types of arthritis that affect the tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles of your joints are called rheumatic diseases or musculoskeletal diseases. A rheumatologist is a doctor who provides non-surgical care for rheumatic diseases.
Rheumatologists are trained to diagnose and treat over 100 rheumatic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, gout, scleroderma, polymyalgia rheumatica, infectious arthritis, etc. Most of these conditions are caused when your body’s immune system starts attacking your cells (autoimmune). Sometimes, it is due to pollution or infection.
The common symptoms of rheumatic diseases are pain, swelling, warmth, and stiffness of the affected joint. If you have such symptoms, which keep coming back, it is best to consult a rheumatologist in-person or through online consultation. The doctor will do a physical examination and might order a few blood tests and x-rays, which will help diagnose your condition. Most rheumatic diseases are treated with analgesics, steroids, DMARDs (Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs), monoclonal antibodies (Infliximab and Adalimumab), or Methotrexate.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the role of a rheumatology doctor?
Rheumatology is the branch of medical science that deals with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of rheumatism, arthritis, musculoskeletal disorders, and other systemic autoimmune conditions. Doctors that are professionally trained in rheumatology are called rheumatologists.
When is it necessary to consult a rheumatologist?
If you have pain in multiple joints, or rheumatoid arthritis or lupus runs in your family, or the joint pain is accompanied by fever, fatigue, and weight loss, then it is best to consult a rheumatologist.
What to expect during the first rheumatologist visit?
On your first visit, the rheumatologist will ask you about your symptoms, such as joint pain, fever, tiredness, cramping, back pain, etc. Then the doctor will check your eyes, skin, and mouth, and look for signs of inflammation and rashes. If needed, the rheumatologist will ask you to get some tests done.
What are rheumatic disorders?
Rheumatic disorders, otherwise called musculoskeletal diseases, are a group of diseases that result in inflammation of the joints and are most often autoimmune in nature.
What are the common autoimmune diseases that a rheumatologist treats?
Rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, ankylosing spondylitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, osteoarthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, and Sjogren’s syndrome are some of the common diseases that rheumatologist treats.
Is there a difference between the words arthritis and rheumatism?
Rheumatism is an outdated term used to describe diseases that affect the joints and bones. It is no longer used by medical professionals.
What are the blood tests that the rheumatologist might do?
The rheumatologist might perform the following blood tests:
- Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides (anti-CCP) antibodies.
- C-reactive protein (CRP).
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).
- Rheumatoid factor.
Do rheumatologists perform surgeries?
No. Rheumatologists are not surgeons, so they do not operate on patients. But they are actively involved in the management of joint replacement patients both before and after surgery.