What is Rheumatology?
Rheumatology is a branch of medicine devoted to the diagnosis, therapy and treatment of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases affect the joints, soft tissues and connective tissues of the body. They can also be autoimmune disorders and vasculitis. The most common ones include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, scleroderma and fibromyalgia.
Signs and Symptoms
Because of the wide range of rheumatic diseases, symptoms may vary. General symptoms include:
- Inflammation and swelling in the joints
- Pain in the joints or muscles
- Joints may be warm to the touch
- Pain when walking
- Muscle weakness and joint instability
- Difficulty doing normal tasks like sitting, bending over
- Difficulty gripping objects
What is a Rheumatologist?
A rheumatologist is a doctor who is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with arthritis and other rheumatic disorders. They have in-depth knowledge of internal medicine and an especially strong understanding of the immune system, due to many rheumatic diseases being autoimmune disorders.
What Does a Rheumatologist Do?
Rheumatologists evaluate, diagnose and treat rheumatic diseases like arthritis, lupus, osteoporosis and pain issues affecting the joints and soft tissue. Some diseases are hereditary conditions, some are caused by autoimmune disorders and others are related to injury and overuse, like tendinitis. They will perform a physical examination and do a comprehensive review of medical data and health history. Additionally, they will order additional tests and lab work as needed and interpret results. The goal is to help the patient have the best possible quality of life. Treatment can include education, medication, coping mechanisms and exercise.
When to see a Rheumatologist
Your primary care provider may refer you to a rheumatologist if you are experiencing long-term joint pain and swelling of is he or she is having difficulty finding out what is causing the symptoms. Bloodwork and tests may also indicate the presence of a rheumatic disease. Rheumatologists treat many rare diseases that can take time to properly diagnose. Your first appointment will typically include a comprehensive review of your medical history. Your primary care provider will arrange to have your health records available and a detailed family medical history is also helpful. Additionally, it is important to take the time beforehand to document any symptoms you are experiencing so the doctor has the most complete information available to help you.
The most common types of issues rheumatologists treat are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Tennis/golfer's elbow
- Back pain
Benefits of UnityPoint Clinic Rheumatology
Our rheumatologists at UnityPoint Clinic are committed to working with you to diagnose, treat and help maintain and control your conditions to help you live a healthy life. Rheumatologists with work with your care team and other providers as needed so your care is coordinated and you receive the treatment and support you and your family can count on.