What Is Rheumatology?

What is Rheumatology?

Richard Kang, MD Blog

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Just as a pediatrician specializes in the treatment of children or a dermatologist knows all about the health of your skin, rheumatologists have received extra training in the detection, prevention, and treatment of diseases that affect the musculoskeletal system. 

In addition, rheumatologists may also deal with autoimmune disorders, which are conditions that cause unneeded pain or swelling due to an overactive immune system.

What training does a rheumatologist receive?

In addition to the standard four years of medical school, rheumatologists also complete three years of residency, dealing with pediatrics, internal medicine, or both. From there, they take part in a rheumatology fellowship for an additional two to three years. 

During this time period, they receive special instruction on the identification and treatment of autoimmune disorders and musculoskeletal illnesses. After passing a board examination and receiving their certification, your rheumatologist also retests every ten years to make sure their information is always up to date.

How do I know I have a rheumatic disease?

Although everyone feels a little sore now and then, chronic aches that persist through rest, pain relievers, and/or physical therapy should be a sign that you need to see a doctor. Typically, you will want to see a primary care physician first. If he or she has concerns that you may be suffering from a rheumatic problem, you will be sent to a rheumatologist for further diagnosis and treatment.

If you or your family have a prior history of autoimmune conditions, or if your symptoms worsen quickly, you should see a rheumatologist right away. Ignoring the warning signs of rheumatic diseases may lead to the deterioration of your joints and muscles. In rare cases, this damage is permanent and irreversible. It’s important that you get your symptoms evaluated sooner rather than later to avoid these risks.

How do I see a rheumatologist?

Rheumatologists generally practice in outpatient clinics and may require a referral from your doctor or pediatrician. However, some rheumatologists may allow patients to make an appointment without visiting another primary care provider first.

What happens during a visit to a rheumatologist?

Because rheumatic conditions are sometimes difficult to properly recognize, rheumatologists will first investigate your prior medical history and may ask about the medical history of your family to see if the condition might be hereditary. From there, your rheumatologist will also perform a physical examination of your musculoskeletal system to look for any inflammation that may be a symptom of an underlying rheumatic disease.

Additional tests they perform may include ordering a lab test of a blood sample to look for an abnormal number of antibodies, or using an X-Ray, MRI, or ultrasound to look for any anomalies in your musculoskeletal system.

What treatments does a rheumatologist prescribe?

After figuring out the precise cause of your pain, your rheumatologist may prescribe medications, refer you to a physical therapist, or perform injections to your joints as part of your treatment. Because rheumatic diseases are complex in nature, you may need several return visits to the rheumatologist to fully identify and treat your symptoms.

What should I bring for my visit?

Because your prior medical history—and that of your family—is so important to identifying rheumatic diseases, it’s vital to ensure that your medical records, including any previous lab or radiographic tests, are sent over by your primary care physician. In addition, your rheumatologist may also ask for an updated list of any medications you may be taking, any known allergies to medication, and any family history of rheumatological conditions.

How much does a visit to a rheumatologist cost?

Because rheumatologists vary in price due to the complexity of the visit and the number of tests that may be needed, gauging the exact cost of a visit is difficult. Luckily, most insurance will help cover the cost of a visit to a rheumatologist. While it’s true that specialty care co-pays are often more expensive than a normal visit to the doctor, having an expert diagnose and treat your rheumatic condition cuts down on extra tests and unneeded procedures that may cost extra time and money in the long run.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are ready to get started on treating your rheumatic disease, contact CORE Medical & Wellness today at 888-521-0688 to learn more or schedule your appointment!

Dr. Richard Kang is double board certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine, and he  completed an interventional pain medicine fellowship at the prestigious New York Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University – College of Physicians and Surgeons.  Read his full bio here.