A rheumatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating rheumatic conditions and
diseases. Typically an internist or pediatrician, rheumatologists analyze, diagnose, and
treat the different illnesses that affect your joints, bones, and muscles.
Rheumatologists often act as long-term health care providers for those facing serious or
chronic rheumatic disease.
What Qualifications Do Rheumatologists Have?
Rheumatologists are highly skilled in the area of rheumatic disease. They must complete
four years of pre-medical training at college or university and continue on to complete
four more years of training at medical school. They must then complete three years in
internal or pediatric medicine. In order to become qualified rheumatologists, they must
then complete two to three years of specialized education and training in rheumatic
disease and treatment. In order to practice their profession, rheumatologists must pass a
rigorous exam and become certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, or a
similar governing body in their country of practice.
What Does a Rheumatologist Treat?
Rheumatologists specialize in treating rheumatic diseases – but what exactly are rheumatic
diseases? Rheumatic illnesses are those that affect the rheumatic system, specifically the
joints, bones, and muscles. Rheumatologists are most commonly associated with arthritis
diagnosis and treatment, although they also help treat a number of other rheumatic
- musculoskeletal pain
- lupus and other autoimmune diseases
How Can A Rheumatologist Help People with Fibromyalgia?
Though fibromyalgia is not actually a type of arthritis, it is considered a rheumatic
disease because it affects the joints and muscles. A rheumatologist is often one of the
best practitioners to consult if you think that you have fibromyalgia. Unlike other health
care providers, rheumatologists are very familiar with the signs and symptoms of
fibromyalgia. They are able to rule out other rheumatic diseases that may mimic
fibromyalgia. They are excellent when it comes to dealing with all-over, widespread pain.
Rheumatologists also have more knowledge and diagnostic tests at their disposal to help
find the cause for fibromyalgia symptoms, such as morning stiffness and joint immobility.
Rheumatologists often play a team leader role when it comes to managing fibromyalgia, and
can direct information to your other health care providers.
What Will A Rheumatologist Examine?
If you decide to visit with a rheumatologist, she will likely examine different aspects of
your bones, muscles, and joints. In particular, she will look for:
- areas of muscle pain
- tender points
- redness and swelling
- range of motion
Tests Performed by A Rheumatologist
In order to help form a diagnosis, rheumatologists rely on a variety of diagnostic test
procedures. These procedures help them to analyze specific areas of your joints and
muscles. Some commonly-performed tests include:
- joint ultrasound
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- joint aspiration and fluid analysis
- bone density tests
What To Expect When You Visit a Rheumatologist
If you choose to visit a rheumatologist, you may be a little apprehensive about the
procedures he will perform. Here are a few things to expect when you get to the office:
Your rheumatologist will ask you about your medical history and your current symptoms.
He will likely perform a physical examination. He will examine your joints, looking for
areas of swelling or deformity. He will also test your muscle stamina, strength, and range
Your rheumatologist may suggest performing some diagnostic tests, including blood tests, j
oint aspiration, and imaging tests.
Your rheumatologist will likely suggest a treatment regimen to help you deal with your
symptoms. Treatment is often multi-faceted, and may include the use of pain medication
along with physical therapy and exercise.
Finding a Rheumatologist
In order to see a rheumatologist, it is likely that you will require a referral from your
general health practitioner or another medical doctor. She may be able to recommend a good
rheumatologist who practices in your area. To find a rheumatologist in your area, you can
also contact your local College of Rheumatology.
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