Basic Information Regarding Your Rheumatologist
Rheumatology is the study or focus of connective tissues in the body. A rheumatologist is a specialist in the field that provides diagnosis and treatment for individuals diagnosed with various forms of connective tissue disorders or conditions. For example, rheumatism is a type of arthritis, known more commonly as rheumatoid arthritis. A rheumatologist may also treat individuals diagnosed with osteoarthritis and other connective tissue diseases.
A trained and experienced rheumatologist is able to identify pathogens, obtain a diagnosis, and manage over one hundred disease processes that include but are not limited to musculoskeletal conditions, autoimmune disease processes, and arthritis. A rheumatologist can focus on children or pediatrics, adults, and the elderly.
What Exactly Does a Rheumatologist Do?
In addition to treating arthritis, rheumatologists often focus on diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune diseases, including:
- Lyme disease
- Psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis
- Bone disease
The one thing that all of these conditions or diseases have in common is that they affect, afflict, and cause damage to connective tissues in the body. Connective tissues not only include tendons and ligaments, but other tissues that support, anchor or connect muscles and organs into place in the human body.
Individuals most often seek the services of a rheumatologist when he or she experiences pain in the bones, joints, or muscles. Such pain may also be accompanied by swelling, one of the first things that a rheumatologist will look for. Some types of rheumatic conditions and diseases are extremely complex and difficult to diagnose, and many of them are chronic or ongoing in nature.
Common Tests and Procedures
Two of the most common procedures involved in the field of rheumatology include joint aspirations, or removal of fluid in a joint, as well as IV infusion therapy.
Dozens of tests are available to rheumatologist in diagnosing musculoskeletal abnormalities, syndromes, injuries, and disease processes, such as:
- Hawkin Sign - testing for rotator cuff injury
- 301P magnetic resonance spectroscopy - for determining presence of metabolic myopathy
- Joint aspirations -(Arthrocentesis) - fluid is removed from a joint to help identify and diagnose arthritis
- Joint injections - often used to inject corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medication to help relieve symptoms and pain caused by arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, and osteoarthritis
A rheumatologist may not only identify and diagnose connective tissue disorders and diseases, but help patients manage their conditions, whether they're diagnosed with fibromyalgia or spinal disorders. Whether treating children or seniors, the scope of care is to relieve pain, reduce symptoms, improve function and mobility, and ensure quality of life.
The rheumatologist may focus on soft tissues, on systemic and connective tissue conditions and diseases, or limit their scope of practice to diseases that affect the bones, as well as congenital or family disorders affecting the joints.
A rheumatologist is well-versed in a variety of treatment plans to relieve pain and symptoms including the use of disease modifying antirheumatic drugs, analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as biological agents, and physical and occupational therapy to help maintain movement and mobility.
How well is Your Rheumatologist Trained?
In most cases, a rheumatologist must have undergone four years of medical school and have obtained a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (O.D.) degree. Experience in clinical settings, including hospitals is also required, working under the supervision of physicians. Following graduation from medical school, the rheumatologist must complete up to three years of specialized study and training in a residency program focusing on internal medicine or pediatrics. Following the residency, the doctor then undergoes two to three years of additional training in a rheumatology fellowship program in order to become board-certified and licensed as a rheumatologist.