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What is rheumatology?
Rheumatology is the field of medicine that is concerned with the evaluation and treatment of people with autoimmune conditions and joint diseases, including arthritis. Branches of rheumatology include basic research and clinical research, as well as clinical diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of patients with these illnesses.
What is a rheumatologist?
A rheumatologist is a subspecialist in the nonsurgical treatment of rheumatic illnesses, including autoimmune diseases and especially the many forms of arthritis and joint disease.
What training does a rheumatologist receive?
Classical adult rheumatology training includes four years of medical school, one year of internship in internal medicine, two years of internal medicine residency, and two years of rheumatology fellowship training. There is a subspecialty board for rheumatology certification, offered by the American Board of Internal Medicine, which can provide board certification to approved rheumatologists.
Pediatric rheumatologists are physicians who specialize in providing comprehensive care to children (as well as their families) with rheumatic diseases, including autoimmune diseases, and particularly arthritis. Pediatric rheumatologists are pediatricians who have completed an additional two to three years of specialized training in pediatric rheumatology and are usually board certified in pediatric rheumatology.
What diseases and conditions do rheumatologists treat?
Rheumatologists have special interests in unexplained rash, fever, arthritis, anemia, weakness, weight loss, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, autoimmune disease, and anorexia. They often serve as consultants, acting like medical detectives for other doctors.
Rheumatologists have particular skills in the evaluation of the over 100 forms of arthritis and have special interest in rheumatoid arthritis, spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, Still's disease, dermatomyositis, Sjögren's syndrome, vasculitis, scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, sarcoidosis, Lyme disease, osteomyelitis, osteoarthritis, back pain, gout, pseudogout, relapsing polychondritis, Henoch-Schönlein purpura, serum sickness, reactive arthritis, Kawasaki disease, erythromelalgia, Raynaud's disease, growing pains, iritis, osteoporosis, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, as well as soft tissue rheumatism (such as tendinitis, muscle pain, and fibromyalgia), and others.
How should patients prepare for their rheumatology visit?
Be prepared for questions about your health history for your visit with the rheumatologist. They will want to know about the history of your main complaint, including how long the symptoms and signs have been occurring, what situations or actions make the symptoms and signs better or worse, how intense the symptoms and signs are, what functions are impaired by the symptoms and signs, stiffness, pain, swelling, warmth, tenderness, fever, chills, weight loss or gain, sweats, tremor, tingling, numbness, breathing impairments, palpitations, and more. They will need to know what particular home remedies, medications, and therapies you have already tried and how they affected you. They will want to know your family history and past medical history, as well as underlying medical diseases and conditions. They also will need to know the names of each of your treating doctors. Bring all of your past testing results with you.
What can patients expect during a visit with a rheumatologist?
After your medical history is reviewed with the doctor, be prepared to have a thorough examination. You may still require further blood testing, X-rays, scans, or even additional surgical and/or medical consultants and rheumatology follow-up visits to get to a proper diagnosis and optimal treatment plan.
It can be helpful to bring a family member along. Because many rheumatic conditions can be complex medically, may require serious medicines that can have side effects and need monitoring testing, and because the conditions can affect the day-to-day functioning of the patient in the family environment, doctors will generally welcome the presence of the family member. By being present when the condition is explained, the required tests are described, and the treatment options and side effects are reviewed, the family member can assist the patient in understanding the game plan while they are permitted their own optimal understanding of the situation that will be confronting the family.
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Top Rheumatology Related Articles
ArthritisArthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and pseudogout.
Gout (Gouty Arthritis)Buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint causes gouty arthritis. Symptoms and signs include joint pain, swelling, heat, and redness, typically of a single joint. Gout may be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medication.
Low Back PainThere are many causes of back pain. Pain in the low back can relate to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles of the low back, internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen, and the skin covering the lumbar area.
OsteoarthritisOsteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints. Also known as degenerative arthritis. Osteoarthritis can be caused by aging, heredity, and injury from trauma or disease.
OA of the Knee ExercisesLearn about osteoarthritis and exercises that relieve knee osteoarthritis pain, stiffness and strengthen the knee joint and surrounding muscles through this picture slideshow.
Osteoarthritis SlideshowOsteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease affecting both cartilage and bone. Joints most often affected by osteoarthritis include the knees, hands, back, or hips. Osteoarthritis symptoms include pain, swelling and joint inflammation.
OsteopeniaOsteopenia is a bone condition characterized by bone loss that is not as severe as in osteoporosis. Bone fracture is the typical symptom of osteopenia, though the condition may be present without symptoms. Treatment involves lifestyle modifications (quitting smoking, not drinking in excess) and ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin D and calcium.
Psoriatic Arthritis PicturePsoriatic arthritis is a specific condition in which a person has both psoriasis and arthritis. See a picture of Psoriatic Arthritis and learn more about the health topic.
Raynaud's PhenomenonRaynaud's phenomenon is characterized by a pale-blue-red sequence of color changes of the digits, most commonly after exposure to cold. Occurring as a result of spasm of blood vessels, the cause is unknown. Symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon depend on the severity, frequency, and duration of the blood vessel spasm. Treatments include protection of the digits, medications, and avoiding emotional stresses, smoking, cold temperature, and tools that vibrate the hands.
Rheumatoid ArthritisRheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. The 16 characteristic early RA signs and symptoms include the following.
- Both sides of the body affected (symmetric)
- Joint deformity
- Joint pain
- Joint redness
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Joint tenderness
- Joint warmth
- Loss of joint function
- Loss of joint range of motion
- Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
Rheumatoid Arthritis Early SymptomsEarly RA symptoms and signs vary differently from person to person. The most common body parts that are initially affected by RA include the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, and the knees and hip joints. Joint inflammation causes stiffness. Warmth, redness, and pain may vary in degree.
RA Friendly ExercisesRegular exercise boosts fitness and helps reverse joint stiffness for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Our experts offer helpful exercises to get you started.
RA SlideshowWhat is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Learn about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Discover rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
RA QuizHow is rheumatoid arthritis different from other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and gout? Take the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Quiz to rest your RA IQ.
Sjogren's SyndromeSjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease involving the abnormal production of extra antibodies that attack the glands and connective tissue. Sjögren's syndrome with gland inflammation (resulting dry eyes and mouth, etc.) that is not associated with another connective tissue disease is referred to as primary Sjögren's syndrome. Sjögren's syndrome that is also associated with a connective tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, or scleroderma, is referred to as secondary Sjögren's syndrome. Though there is no cure for Sjögren's syndrome, the symptoms may be treated by using lubricating eye ointments, drinking plenty of water, humidifying the air, and using glycerin swabs. Medications are also available to treat dry eye and dry mouth.
Systemic LupusSystemic lupus erythematosus is a condition characterized by chronic inflammation of body tissues caused by autoimmune disease. Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. When only the skin is involved, the condition is called discoid lupus. When internal organs are involved, the condition is called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).