What is a Rheumatologist?
A rheumatologist is a physician who is qualified in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones.
What do Rheumatologists treat?
Rheumatologists treat arthritis, certain autoimmune diseases, musculoskeletal pain disorders and osteoporosis. There are a very large number of these diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, back pain, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and tendonitis. Some of these conditions may be serious diseases that can be difficult to diagnose and the treatments may be complex.
Paediatric Rheumatologists treat people less than 16 years of age with these disorders.
There are some rheumatic diseases which are especially prevalent in childhood.
When should you see a Rheumatologist?
If musculoskeletal pains are not severe or disabling and last just a few days, it would make sense to give the problem a reasonable chance to resolve. 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 general practitioner. A referral to a Rheumatologist may be deemed necessary. Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages. Rheumatologists are 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 such as rheumatoid arthritis. Some diseases change over time. Rheumatologists work closely with patients to identify the problem and design an individualized treatment programme.
How does the Rheumatologist work with other Health Care Professionals?
It is important that there is close liaison with the GP. Typically the rheumatologist works with other clinicians, sometimes acting as a consultant to advise about a specific diagnosis and treatment plan. In other situations, the rheumatologist acts as a manager, relying upon the help of many skilled professionals including nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists and psychologists. Team work is important. Health care professionals can help people with musculoskeletal diseases and their families cope with the changes the diseases cause in their lives.