What is a RHEUMATOLOGIST?
A rheumatologist (roo-mah-TAH-lo-jist) is a medical specialist in musculoskeletal disorders who diagnoses and treats arthritis and other diseases of
the joints, muscles and bones. There are more than 100 types of these diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus,
osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and tendonitis. Most often, a patient is referred to a rheumatologist by his primary care physician after presenting
symptoms of swelling and pain in joints, muscles and bones.
What Kind of Training do Rheumatologists Have?
After four years of medical school and three years of training in either internal medicine or pediatrics, rheumatologists devote an additional two or three
years in specialized rheumatology fellowship program. Most rheumatologists who plan to treat patients choose to become “board certified”. That is,
upon completion of their training, they must pass a rigorous exam conducted by the American Board of Internal Medicine to become certified.
Why Should You Visit a Rheumatologist?
Rheumatic diseases are typically not easily identifiable in early stages and are complex. Therefore, you should visit a rheumatologist who is specially
trained to do the detective work necessary to discover the cause of swelling and pain. It is important to determine a correct diagnosis early so that
appropriate treatment can begin early.
A rheumatologist generally works with other physicians, acting as a CONSULTANT to advise another physician about a specific diagnosis and
treatment plan. Because some rheumatic diseases are complex, a rheumatologist works with other physicians to set up a coordinated team
approach. He acts as the MANAGER and relies upon the help of many skilled professionals such as nurses, physical and occupational therapists,
psychologists and social workers.
Specialized care provided by a rheumatologist by and large saves time and money and reduces the severity of the disease. A rheumatologist is trained
to detect clues in the medical history and physical examination. In addition, the proper tests done early saves money in the long run. In short, prompt
diagnosis and specifically tailored treatment often saves money and buys time in designing an individualized treatment program.
Arthritis, Osteoporosis, and Auto-Immune Diseases
Barry Shibuya M.D. and Christine Elias M.D.