One of the most common questions people ask whenever they visit a rheumatologist is what is rheumatology? We have never heard of this specialty/subject. For us joint pains mean orthopedics.
What is a Rheumatologist?
A Rheumatologist is a specialist physician who has expertise in diagnosing and treating conditions of the joints, muscles, and bones.
In local / Indian languages by what name is a rheumatologist known as?
In local / Indian languages arthritis is known as “sandhivatha” or “sandivatha” or “sandhivata” or “संधिवात” or “ಸಂಧಿವಾತ”. A rheumatologist is known as – ಸಂಧಿವಾತತಜ್ನ” or “sandhivatha specialist” or “sandivathaspecialist” or “sandhivata specialist”.
What kind of training do Rheumatologists have?
After completing M.B.B.S and three years of training in either internal medicine or pediatrics (M.D), rheumatologists devote an additional three years in specialized rheumatology training. This specialized training is called – DM or DNB.
When should you see a Rheumatologist?
- Are your joints swollen?
- Are your joints stiff?
- Are your joints painful?
- Do you have back pain?
- Is your back stiff for more than 30 minutes in the morning?
- Does the back pain get better with activity or as the day progresses?
- Do you have hip pain or stiffness?
- Do you muscle or bone pains?
If musculoskeletal pains are not severe or disabling and last just a few days, it makes sense to give the problem a reasonable chance to be resolved. But sometimes, pain in the joints, muscles, or bones is severe or persists for more than a few days. At that point, you should see your physician.
Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages. Rheumatologists are specially trained to do the detective work necessary to discover the cause of swelling and pain. It’s important to determine a correct diagnosis early so that appropriate treatment can begin early. Some musculoskeletal disorders respond best to treatment in the early stages of the disease.
Because some rheumatic diseases are complex, one visit to a rheumatologist may not be enough to determine a diagnosis and course of treatment. These rheumatological conditions often change or evolve over time. Rheumatologists work closely with patients to identify the problem and design an individualized treatment program.
What do Rheumatologists treat?
- Different types of arthritis including
- Post viral arthritis-like Chikungunya arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Seronegativespondyloarthritis (SpA) like ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, undifferentiated spondyloarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease-associated arthritis (IBD AA)
- Crystal arthritis – gout, pseudogout/calcium pyrophosphate deposition arthritis (CPPD)
- Myositis / Inflammatory myositis / Dermatomyositis / Polymyositis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus / SLE / Lupus /
- Primary Sjogren’s syndrome
- Scleroderma / Systemic sclerosis
- Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD)
- Undifferentiated connective tissue disease (UCTD)
What will happen when I see a rheumatologist? What to expect when I see a rheumatologist?
- Your rheumatologist is specially trained to do the detective work necessary to discover the cause of your symptoms. He or she will usually ask you to explain the history of the problem and will undertake a physical examination. Additional investigations such as blood tests, X-rays, and scans may also be needed. Rheumatologists work closely with patients to diagnose the condition. Because some rheumatological conditions are complex, one visit to a rheumatologist may not be enough to determine a diagnosis. These diseases often change or evolve over time. In some cases, the diagnosis may take time and require multiple visits / multiple tests / frequent tests.
- Information and advice
- Once a diagnosis is made, your rheumatologist will explain the nature of your rheumatological condition and what you might expect in the future. This is an important step, particularly for rheumatological conditions that might require long term treatment.
- With an accurate diagnosis and a shared understanding of your rheumatological condition, you and your rheumatologist can work together to design a treatment program aimed at managing pain, reducing inflammation, and ensuring your quality of life.
- He or she will select the best treatment combination for you, depending on the exact nature of your rheumatologist’s condition and your other individual needs. In treating and managing your rheumatological condition, your rheumatologist may need to work closely with other skilled professionals like nephrologist (kidney specialist), gastroenterologist, dermatologist (skin specialist), pulmonologist (lung specialist), an ophthalmologist (eye specialist), physiatrist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, podiatrist, and dietitian.
- Ongoing management
- Depending on the nature of your rheumatological condition, you may need to see your rheumatologist regularly for ongoing management.