What is a Rheumatologist?
Rheumatology is a subspecialty of Internal Medicine. A rheumatologist is an internist who has additional specialized training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints and bones. In addition to arthritis, rheumatologists treat certain autoimmune diseases, musculoskeletal pain, and osteoporosis. Rheumatologists typically work closely with primary care physicians to coordinate the best possible treatment for each patient.
Rheumatologists have particular skills in the evaluation of the over 100 forms of arthritis, and have special interest in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, gout, pseudogout, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), osteoporosis, osteopenia, back pain, ankylosing spondylitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, polymyalgia rheumatic, polymyositis, bursitis, tendinitis, reactive arthritis, undifferentiated connective tissue disease, Paget’s disease, Raynaud's phenomenon, reflex sympathy dystrophy syndrome, Reiter’s syndrome, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, Still disease, dermatomyositis, vasculitis, sarcoidosis, osteomyelitis, relapsing polychondritis, Henoch- Schonlein purpura, serum sickness, Kawasaki disease, erythromelalgia, growing pains, iritis, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and others.
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. Upon completion of their training, they must pass a rigorous exam conducted by the American Board to become certified. Susan Zito is dually board certified in both rheumatology and internal medicine.
It is important to establish a correct diagnosis early so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. Some of these are serious diseases that should be diagnosed and treated early.
When should I see a Rheumatologist?
If pain in the joints, muscles or bones is severe or persists for more than a few days you should see a physician. Certain conditions like rheumatoid arthritis are important to diagnose early. Often the symptoms are difficult for non-rheumatologists to diagnose.
What will happen when I see a Rheumatologist?
Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages. Rheumatologists are specially trained to do the investigative work necessary to determine the underlying condition.
Because rheumatic diseases are complex, one visit to a rheumatologist may not be enough to determine a diagnosis and course of treatment. These diseases often change or evolve over time. Rheumatologists work closely with patients to help identify the problem and design an individualized treatment program. This might involve a number of treatment options that may include mediations, procedures like joint injections, infusions, physical therapy, general supportive care and surgery. Your best treatment combination will depend on the exact nature of your illness, your other medical problems and your other individual needs.