What is Rheumatology?

Most people automatically think of arthritis when they hear the term rheumatology. While rheumatoid arthritis is a large part of the field, rheumatology covers much more. Rheumatology is a sub-specialty of internal medicine, focusing on problems with joints, soft tissues, and autoimmune disorders.

Rheumatologists are internal medicine doctors or pediatricians who have received further specialized training for two to three years in diagnosing and treating these disorders because rheumatic conditions are so complex. When should I see a Rheumatologist? Usually your primary care physician will refer you to a rheumatologist for muscle or joint pain that is not resolving as expected. It is important to let your doctor know any and all symptoms to achieve the best treatment results. If you have a family history of rheumatic problems, your doctor should be informed.

What should I expect during my rheumatology appointment?

It’s always best to be prepared when visiting the doctor. Be sure to update your medical history and bring a list of any medications you may be taking. Also, it may be helpful to have your symptoms listed and any relevant family history documented. Your rheumatologist will review your symptoms and medical history, as well as lab results that may have been performed. A physical exam will also be completed to help the doctor assess your specific condition. Additional tests or radiographic testing (CT, MRI, x-ray) may be necessary. Together with the rheumatologist, you can develop a treatment plan that works with your needs. This plan may include medication, physical therapy, or referrals to other specialists.

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