Dr David Collins MD FRCP
What is rheumatology?
A subspecialty of general medicine that involves the non-surgical evaluation and treatment of the rheumatic diseases and conditions. Rheumatic diseases and conditions are characterized by symptoms involving the musculoskeletal system. Many of the rheumatic diseases and conditions feature immune system abnormalities. Therefore, rheumatology also involves the study of the immune system.
What is a rheuamtologist?
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. Many rheumatologists conduct research to determine the cause and better treatments for these disabling and sometimes fatal diseases.
What kind of training do Rheumatologists have?
After five or six years of medical school and three to four years of training in basic general medicine rheumatologists spend a minimum of an additional four years to specialized rheumatology training.
What do rheumatologists treat?
Rheumatologists treat arthritis, certain 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, fibromyalgia and tendonitis. Some of these are very serious diseases that can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages. Rheumatologists are specially 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. A rheumatologist will arrange for you to have tests to find out more about your condition. These may include blood tests and x-rays and scans.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, a rheumatologist will recommend a programme of treatment, which they may help monitor or carry out with your general practitioner. This could be a course of tablets or local steroid injections to address your symptoms, for example. Your rheumatologist can also recommend that you may see a therapist for specialist advice, including: Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Podiatrists.
Because some rheumatic diseases are complex and evolve or change over a period of months or even years, one visit to a rheumatologist may not be enough to determine a diagnosis and course of treatment. Rheumatologists work closely with patients to identify the problem and design an individualized treatment program.
How does the rheumatologist work with other health care professionals?
Because some of the rheumatic diseases can affect other aspects of your health besides your joints,
rheumatologists work with a wide range of other clinicians, and team work is vitally important. Typically the rheumatologist works with other physicians, orthopaedic surgeons and sometimes neurosurgeons.
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