What is a Rheumatologist?


A rheumatologist is a physician who is qualified, by additional training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. After four years of medical school and three years of training in internal medicine, rheumatologists devote an additional two to three years in specialized rheumatology training. Most rheumatologists who plan to treat patients choose to become board certified. Upon completion of their training, they must pass a rigorous exam conducted by the American Board of Internal Medicine to become certified.

Who do Rheumatologists treat?

Rheumatologists treat arthritis, autoimmune diseases, musculoskeletal pain disorders and osteoporosis. There are more than 100 types of these diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, back pain, osteoporosis, and tendonitis.

It is important to establish a correct diagnosis early so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. Some of these are very serious disease that should be diagnosed and treated early.

When should I see a Rheumatologist?

If pain in the joints, muscles or bones is severe or persists for more than a few days you should see a physician. Certain conditions like rheumatoid arthritis are important to diagnose early. Often the symptoms are difficult for non-rheumatologists to diagnose.

What will happen when I see the Rheumatologist?

Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages. Rheumatologists are specially trained to do the investigative work necessary to determine the underlying condition.

Because 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 help identify the problem and design an individualized treatment program.

How will my condition be treated?

Your rheumatologist will explain a number of treatment options that may include physical therapy, mediations, procedures like joint injections, general supportive care and surgery. Your best treatment combination will depend on the exact nature of your illness, your other medical problems and your other individual needs. Your rheumatologist will work closely with your primary physician to ensure you get the best possible care.