Frequent joint pain and swelling might tempt you to skip all your work and see a rheumatologist for a diagnosis right away. And while consulting a general practitioner (GP) first might seem tedious and unnecessary, it’s required.
The first step to treating your pain is identifying your problem’s source—something a GP can help you with.
This article discusses why it’s best to meet a GP and get a referral instead of seeing a rheumatologist first.
When will your GP refer you to a rheumatologist?
Rheumatologists are internal medicine physicians who diagnose and treat rheumatic, inflammatory, and autoimmune conditions affecting joints, muscles, and bones like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc.
Seeing a rheumatologist in the early stages will prevent permanent joint damage and help you manage your condition effectively.
Your GP will refer you to a rheumatologist if:
- You have some form of arthritis amongst the 100 different types known to the medical community
- You have frequent episodes of fever and pain but no confirmed diagnosis
- Your symptoms don’t respond to treatment or return once the treatment is stopped
- Your GP suspects an underlying rheumatic or inflammatory condition based on physical examination or tests results
- Your blood tests show abnormal results and need more investigation
Why should you get a referral before consulting a rheumatologist?
It saves everybody time
Visiting your GP and seeking a rheumatologist referral might seem time-consuming to you at this point, but in reality, it will save you time.
While you can visit a rheumatologist without a referral, you don’t want to visit one to know your condition requires medical intervention from another specialist. If so, you’ll have to go to a GP and get another referral, which is tedious and a waste of precious time.
It leads to a faster diagnosis
As your GP sees you regularly, referrals from your GP can help the rheumatologist to take your diagnosis forward instead of starting from scratch. Plus, referrals also increase your chances of being accepted by a rheumatologist as they communicate the severity of your issue.
If your GP isn’t referring you to a rheumatologist after diagnosis, talk to them about it. Be honest with them about your symptoms and why you feel that seeing a rheumatologist will benefit you.
Once referred, it will take three to six weeks to see a rheumatologist, so it’s essential to book an appointment quickly.
Why is it essential to meet with a rheumatologist?
You might have an underlying rheumatic condition if you have chronic joint pain, swelling, or fever. Rheumatic diseases like arthritis are a leading cause of disability among US adults.
While your GP can provide primary care, early intervention by a specialist reduces the impact of short-term and long-term mobility and mortality.
Rheumatologists undergo intensive training to be able to treat more than 100 types of arthritis. They specialize in surgical and non-surgical interventions—ensuring you have several treatment options.
Their expertise can help you understand what the real issue is. They’ll conduct a basic physical exam and look for specific symptoms like unexplained pain, swelling, fever, muscle weakness, and your medical history.
Based on that, they might prescribe blood tests like Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA), Rheumatoid Factor (RF), and Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) for accurate diagnosis. Once they have all this information in hand, they create a curated plan for you.
Consult a rheumatologist today
Now that you know what a GP does and their role in the referral process, we recommend meeting with them initially. While you can visit a rheumatologist without a referral, a referral from your GP ensures you don’t have any other underlying condition, as several other medical conditions might have similar symptoms.If you’ve been referred to a rheumatologist, contact our experienced rheumatologists today.