most of us see a rheumatologist .....
What is a Rheumatologist
A rheumatologist is an internist or pediatrician who received further trainingin the diagnosis (detection) and treatment of arthritis and othermusculoskeletal diseases. Also called “rheumatic” diseases, these diseasesaffect the joints, muscles and bones. Many rheumatologists also conductresearch to find the cause of and better treatment for these disablingdiseases.
WHAT KIND OF TRAINING DO RHEUMATOLOGISTSHAVE?
Rheumatologists must first complete four years of medical school and threeyears of residency training in primary care (either internal medicine orpediatrics). After taking a national exam to become board certified,rheumatologists devote two to three years in specialized training in anaccredited rheumatology fellowship program.
Most rheumatologists who plan to treat patients choose to become boardcertified in rheumatology after their fellowship training. If the doctor hastrained in internal medicine, the subspecialty exam and certification are bythe American Board of Internal Medicine. Physicians who trained in pediatricstake their board exam from the American Board of Pediatrics.
Rheumatologists who are certified by these boards after 1990 must complete anextensive recertification process every 10 years. This process shows they havekept their medical skills and knowledge up to date.
WHAT DO RHEUMATOLOGISTS TREAT?
Rheumatologists treat arthritis, certain autoimmune diseases (when the bodycomes under attack by its own immune system), musculoskeletal pain andosteoporosis. There are more than 100 types of these rheumatic conditions. Afew of them are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, ankylosingspondylitis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and tendinitis. Some of the rheumaticdiseases are very serious and can be hard to diagnose and treat.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SEE A RHEUMATOLOGIST?
If muscle or joint pains are not severe and began just a few days before,it makes sense to give the problem time to resolve on its own. But sometimes,pain in the joints, muscles or bones is severe or lasts more than a few days.At that point, you should see your doctor.
Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easy to find in the early stage, andyou may need to see a specialist. Rheumatologists are specially trained to findthe cause of joint swelling and pain. It is important for patients to get acorrect diagnosis early so that proper treatment can begin. Somemusculoskeletal problems respond best to treatment in the early stages of thedisease.
Because some rheumatic diseases are complex, one visit to a rheumatologist maynot be enough to get a diagnosis and treatment plan. These diseases tend to bechronic (long term) and often change over time. Sometimes they get worse, andsometimes they go away for a while and then return. Rheumatologists workclosely with patients to find the problem and design a treatment plan.
HOW DOES THE RHEUMATOLOGIST WORK WITHOTHER HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS?
The role the rheumatologist plays in health care depends on many factorsand the patient’s needs. Most often, the rheumatologist works with otherphysicians.
Sometimes the rheumatologist acts as a consultant to advise another doctorabout a diagnosis and treatment plan. In other cases, the rheumatologist actsas a manager and relies on the help of many skilled professionals. This teammay include nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists andsocial workers. Teamwork is important, since musculoskeletal disorders oftenlast a long time. Health care providers can help patients and their familiescope with the changes these chronic diseases cause in their lives.
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