September 21

When to consult a rheumatologist

Everyone experiences pain, especially with age. Sometimes these pains may be the signs of more serious problems with your organism. If you also have symptoms such as joint swelling, fever or skin rash, your physician may refer to a rheumatologist. It is a specialist who deals with joints, vasculitis (inflammation of small blood vessels), soft tissues, etc. Rheumatologist will conduct an examination to diagnose your condition, and then develop a plan of treatment for you, which will most likely include medications, regular exercise, a healthy diet and stress management.

Many diseases, like back pain and arthritis, lupus and scleroderma are diagnosed by a rheumatologist. Rheumatic or autoimmune diseases usually occur in families, so you should get an earlier referral if you have a family history of these diseases.

Reasons to visit a specialist

  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Back and neck pain
  • Disorders of the musculoskeletal system, including tendinitis and bursitis
  • Pinched nerve, such as sciatica or carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Osteoarthritis (the most common type that is not associated with immunity)
  • Lyme disease
  • Autoimmune disorders

Usually, general practitioners send their patients to rheumatologists when they suspect symptoms similar to rheumatic diseases (such as chronic joint pain and fatigue) and need a confirmation of this disease, which is beyond their usual scope or area of competence. Patients also turn to a rheumatologist for providing the most suitable and effective medications for their treatment.

Meeting with a rheumatologist

Firstly, patients are asked about their symptoms and undergo a physical examination. Rheumatologists are specialists who understand that you may not know everything there is to know about your health condition, that's why the doctor may need tests to make a diagnosis and recommend treatment. It will be very helpful for you and your doctor if you bring some tests (past blood test results, a full list of current prescribed medications including vitamins and supplements, medical history of your family) with you in order to speed up the diagnoses.

After the initial examination, the rheumatologist can order additional tests to further study your unique condition. For example:

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasounds
  • X-Rays
  • MRIs

These tests’ results will help the specialist make a final diagnosis and find out whether you have a rheumatic disease, another autoimmune disease (for example, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus or Lyme disease), or if there is another possible cause of pain symptoms in your joints.

During your meeting, be sure to find out who you should call if you have any questions or problems after you leave the office.

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