Who Should See A Rheumatologist, And When?

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When experiencing joint pain, you’re often asked to consult a “joint doctor.” In the medical world, we know them as “Rheumatologists.” 

Many of us are unsure about the different kinds of doctors and who treats what. It’s hard to figure out these things yourself, so we’ve created a short post for you. 

This article will give you insights into what rheumatologists are and the kinds of patients they treat.

Who are rheumatologists & what do they do? 

Rheumatologists are internal medicine physicians who specifically deal with musculoskeletal disease and autoimmune conditions. They specialize in diagnosing and treating rheumatic or inflammatory diseases which affect your joints, muscles, and bones.

Rheumatologists treat patients irrespective of age—although specialized physicians are available for adults and children separately.

Types of conditions rheumatologists treat

5 Types of Patients Rheumatologists See

Rheumatologists are specialist doctors, meaning they meet patients only when specific issues arise. A few examples include:

Patients with unexplained pain and swelling in joints and muscles

Some individuals have repeated occurrences of unexplained joint and muscle pain which can be due to underlying rheumatic disease. 

In such cases, rheumatologists look for accompanying rheumatic symptoms like swelling, fever, skin rashes, itching, fatigue, or chest pain. Based on the symptoms and diagnostic reports, they prescribe treatment.

Patients with unusual blood test results

Rheumatic diseases can be challenging to identify at first because they start as mild pain or fever. However, sometimes general doctors might recommend unusual blood tests to be sure.

Some of these include antinuclear antibodies (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)—which indicate the presence of rheumatic disease. If you have positive results for the same, they refer you to rheumatologists for further treatment.

Patients with a family history of rheumatic diseases

Many diseases are caused by inheriting specific genes from your parents—rheumatic and autoimmune diseases are no different.

Therefore, people with a family history of such conditions must contact rheumatologists when they’re young to address the potential onset of the disease. In these cases, early intervention prevents permanent joint damage.

Patients with rheumatic symptoms 

Inflammation in the lining of the lungs, muscle weakness, stiffness, swollen lymph nodes, dry eyes and mouth, dermatitis, etc., are common rheumatic symptoms. 

If these symptoms improve with treatment but return once it’s stopped or doesn’t respond to treatment, it may be due to underlying rheumatic disease. In such cases, reach out to a rheumatologist.

Patients diagnosed with rheumatic and autoimmune conditions

Suppose you’re already diagnosed with rheumatic diseases like arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, osteoarthritis, nerve impingement, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, spondyloarthritis, etc. In that case, rheumatologists are the experts you’re either consulting or will be consulting. 

If you’re worried about your first interaction with a rheumatologist, here’s our starter guide to help you out!

Consult the experts 

Working closely with a rheumatologist is one of the most important steps to effectively managing your joint and bone issues. Consulting them in the early stages can protect you from permanent joint damage in the future.
If you’re having joint, bone, or muscle inflammation or pain, reach out to our rheumatologists today.

St Paul Rheumatology