We all have general musculoskeletal pains from time to time that last for just a few days. But, when pain in your joints, muscles, neck, back and bones is severe and persistent for more than a few days, you should see your doctor. Rheumatic diseases are difficult to identify in their early stages and you can have everyday symptoms that actually are related to much more complex conditions. Rheumatologists are your experts in this area and are trained to evaluate all of your symptoms to diagnose and treat your condition.They know it is imperative to find the correct diagnosis as rapidly as possible to begin appropriate treatment because many of these disorders respond best to treatment in the early stages of disease.
Many rheumatic diseases change or evolve, so you may have to make more than one office visit before your rheumatologist reaches a definitive diagnosis.The diagnostic process usually includes a complete medical history, physical examination and, if indicated, blood tests and x-rays.
Rheumatologists are internists with special skills and training in the complex diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and rheumatic illnesses and much, much more. They treat patients with pain and disorders of the joints, muscles, tendons, bones and other connective tissues.Their strong foundation in internal medicine prepares them as specialists to manage localized and generalized pain while also considering other medications or conditions.
There are more than 100 types of rheumatologic diseases, including musculoskeletal pain disorders; back and neck pain, tendinitis, bursitis, nerve impingements (sciatica, cervical radiculopathy, carpal tunnel syndrome); osteoarthritis; autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, spondyloarthro- pathies, polymyalgia rheumatic, lupus, Sjogren's syndrome, antiphospholipid syndrome, scleroderma; and vasculitis; osteoporosis and osteopenia; gout; fibromyalgia; and Lyme arthritis.
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 GP.
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 diseases often change or evolve over time. Rheumatologists work closely with patients to identify the problem and design an individualized treatment program.
Some questions may not seem to be about rheumatoid arthritis, but your doctor has a good reason for asking them. Tell him if you want to know why or if you feel uncomfortable.
The role the rheumatologist plays in health care depends on several factors and needs. Typically the rheumatologist works with other physicians, sometimes acting as a consultant to advise another physician about a specific diagnosis and treatment plan. In other situations, the rheumatologist acts as a a manager, relying upon the help of many skilled professionals including nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers. Team work is important, since musculoskeletal disorders are chronic. Health care professionals can help people with musculoskeletal diseases and their families cope with the changes the diseases cause in their lives.
You may be surprised to learn that specialized care may save time and money and reduce the severity of disease. A rheumatologist is specially trained to spot clues in the medical history and physical examination. The proper tests done early may save money in the long run. Prompt diagnosis and specially tailored treatment often save money and buy time in treating the disease.