As technology and research advance, the medical field has become more specialized. There are many specialties and it can be confusing. This post will take a deep dive into rheumatology and how our services can support your path to health.
What Is a Rheumatologist?
A rheumatologist is a specialist trained to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions. These rheumatic diseases include:
They usually impact the joints, muscles, and bones, which can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness. They can also impact your:
- Nervous system
- Internal organs
What Are the Most Common Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases?
Rheumatic and autoimmune disorders affect over 50 million Americans. Autoimmune diseases have become an epidemic, and their treatment eclipses cancer care costs.
The NIH estimates the cost of treating autoimmune diseases to be around $100 billion, almost double that spent on cancer.
Rheumatic disorders include many conditions, including chronic diseases that are often difficult to treat and are not “curable,” some of the most common conditions include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Gout and pseudogout
- Regional muscular-skeletal disorders
How Is a Rheumatologist Trained?
Rheumatologists complete four years of medical or osteopathic education. They then complete three years of residency training in either internal medicine or pediatrics, or both.
After completing their residency, they must enroll in a rheumatology fellowship for two-three years. During this time, they study chronic musculoskeletal and autoimmune conditions and their treatment.
To become board certified in rheumatology, rheumatologists must pass a board examination. They must get recertified every ten years. They are also required to participate in continuing medical education every year.
When Should I See a Rheumatologist?
Occasional muscle and joint pain are common. You’ll experience it on and off throughout your lifetime. But if the pain doesn’t pass in a reasonable amount of time or is too much to take, you’ll want to get an expert’s opinion.
Most of the time, you’ll start by consulting with your primary care physician. They will then guide you to the next course of action. If your doctor thinks that there is an underlying rheumatic condition, they will refer you to a rheumatologist.
You should also seek a referral to a rheumatologist if you:
- Have family members who have autoimmune or rheumatic diseases.
- Experience symptoms worsening significantly over a short period of time.
- Experience signs and symptoms that improve or temporarily resolve when you first get treated but return after stopping medication.
- Have symptoms continue to return.
It’s crucial not to ignore symptoms of joint pain. Without proper treatment, joint damage can occur. After damage occurs, it cannot always be reversed with treatment and may be permanent.
What Is the Difference Between a Rheumatologist and an Orthopedist?
Although rheumatologists and orthopedists both focus on joints and muscles, rheumatologists don’t perform surgery. Here’s a quick breakdown.
- Joint or musculoskeletal pain following an injury
- Hip or knee pain that gradually increases when bearing weight
- Severe joint pain that interferes with essential daily functions
- Moderate or advanced arthritis in the hips or knees
- Previous unsuccessful treatment of joint pain
- Joint replacements
- Pain that involves multiple joints
- New joint pain not associated with an injury
- Joint or musculoskeletal pain associated with:
- Morning stiffness
- Chest pain
- Muscular pain with or without any other symptoms
- People over 50 who experience recurring headaches or muscle aches
- Ongoing symptoms, such as unexplained fever, sweating, or weight loss
Determining the Specialist to Treat Your Condition
If you suffer from debilitating joint pain, you may not be sure whether you should see a rheumatologist or an orthopedist. That’s where your primary care provider can prove to be very helpful. They will be able to determine the best specialist to treat your condition.
Typically, unless you have experienced a trauma to the body that requires surgical treatment, you work with a rheumatologist first.
If a condition is caught early enough, a rheumatologist can use various non-surgical treatment options. Options include medications to treat symptoms of inflammatory and systemic forms of arthritis.
However, if symptoms continue to persist, you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon to see if your condition could be treated with surgery.
What Should I Expect From a Rheumatology Visit?
Rheumatic diseases tend to be complex in nature and difficult to diagnose. So, you want to partner with a provider that you feel comfortable with and who is committed to working with you to find the root cause of your issue.
Complete Medical History
During your first visit, your rheumatologist takes your complete medical history. Your family history is crucial to the diagnosis of rheumatic disease. So, it’s important to gather as much information as you can.
Comprehensive Physical Exam
Next, your rheumatologist performs a comprehensive physical exam to look for inflammation. Also, they will review results from lab tests and order additional labs and radiographic tests to assess for:
- Extra antibody production
- Musculoskeletal abnormalities
Your rheumatologist may temporarily take you off of certain medications. These medications may be masking symptoms making a diagnosis difficult.
We Set the Standards
Proudly, we set the standards in 2005 as the first facility to bring the specialized Functional Medicine approach together with mind-body medicine under one roof. And, our growing team of experts is here to collaborate with you on your journey.
Our rheumatology services offer you a personalized, focused experience, including Functional Medicine and mind-body-services. We offer functional medicine that uncovers triggers and corrects underlying imbalances.
And then, we combine the latest in research to treat even the most complex conditions. At Living Well, Dallas, we are here for you to seek help in obtaining a diagnosis or finding treatment solutions.