Musculoskeletal conditions affect internal organs like bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Patients with such diseases experience pain, stiffness, swelling, and deformities. If you suffer from such conditions, you will need to see a rheumatologist for diagnosis and treatment. This post offers critical insights into rheumatologist care.
What Is a Rheumatologist?
A rheumatologist is a specialist doctor who focuses on diagnosing and treating connective tissues problems and autoimmune diseases. This internal medicine doctor attends to inflammatory conditions that affect muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments. A rheumatologist also deals with systemic autoimmune diseases. Such conditions cause a person's immune system to attack their own body. The diseases can affect multiple body organs like skin, eyes, nerves, and heart. Additionally, all autoimmune diseases can cause arthritis and inflammation of the joints. The doctor can treat such conditions without the need for surgery.
The following are the significant conditions treated by a rheumatologist:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Sjogren's disease
Qualifications for a Rheumatologist
A rheumatologist undertakes four years of medical or osteopathic education. Then, the doctor completes three years of residency training in internal medicine or pediatrics, or both. If rheumatologists complete medical school training, they use the initials (MD) for medical doctors. However, those who attend osteopathic schools use the initials (DO) for doctor of osteopathy. Notably, the two types of doctors receive the same training and have similar expertise to offer patients.
Rheumatologists must also undertake two to three years of fellowship to diagnose and treat rheumatic diseases. Most rheumatologists then sit for an examination to become board certified or participate in a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) voluntary program. However, board certification and the MOC are not required for medical practice.
Where Can You Find a Rheumatologist?
Most rheumatologists work in outpatient clinics. Your primary care provider and other physicians may refer you to a rheumatologist specialist evaluation. However, you can make an appointment to see a rheumatologist without any referral. Some rheumatologist also offers evaluations for hospitalized patients. Besides, some rheumatologists work in the research field, conducting studies on treating rheumatic diseases.
What to Expect When You Visit a Rheumatologist
A visit to a rheumatologist starts with a physical exam and medical history. Typically, the doctor will ask you your personal or family health questions to narrow down on your symptoms. You can also share copies of any document regarding previous testing or imaging for your symptoms. Since rheumatic conditions change with time, the specialist sets up a personalized care plan based on your symptoms.
Your rheumatologist may recommend some treatments, including medication, physical therapy, joint or tendon injections, or referrals to other specialists. For instance, the rheumatologist can refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for bone surgery. Often, there are follow-up appointments with the rheumatologist for medical monitoring and symptoms management.
If you have persistent joint, muscle, or bone pain, you should seek medical attention early on. A rheumatologist will diagnose whether you are suffering from rheumatic diseases and design an individualized treatment plan.
For more information, contact a local facility that offers rheumatology care, like Sarasota Arthritis Center.