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6 Things Your Rheumatologist Wants You to Know

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Hanes, RN on July 11, 2021
  • Doctor shaking hands
    Rheumatologists: Medical Detectives on the Case
    The word "rheumatism" has a quaint sound to it, but today’s rheumatologists use advanced technology and tools to identify and treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including complex mystery illnesses that seem to defy explanation. These medical detectives specialize in treating rheumatic diseases and disorders, which include inflammatory musculoskeletal diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). But you may be surprised to learn their skills extend to helping women with lupus have healthy pregnancies. And their clients aren’t all senior citizens, either. Pediatric rheumatologists treat children with inflammatory disorders. Discover six more things rheumatologists would like you to know about their fascinating specialty.
  • Friendly doctor with patient
    1. “We take our time to talk to you.”
    Rheumatologists combine classic “bedside manner” doctoring with advanced scientific techniques to arrive at a diagnosis and treat disorders. “Rheumatologists are generally very thoughtful physicians relying on old-fashioned techniques that involve talking to and examining patients (the medical history and physical) in order to make the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan,” says Richard Furie, MD, chief of the Division of Rheumatology at Northwell Health in New York. “Despite sounding ‘archaic,’ rheumatology has witnessed significant treatment advances in recent years, with markedly improved outcomes for patients with many rheumatic disorders.”
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  • male doctor and patient with shoulder pain
    2. “We solve medical mysteries.”
    When a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms seems to put diagnosis out of reach, rheumatologists often can make sense of the situation. “If a patient has puzzling complaints that do not seem related, a rheumatologist can, at times, come up with a comprehensive diagnosis,” says Elyse Rubenstein, MD, rheumatologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. “A rheumatologist is capable of compiling multiple symptoms and making a diagnosis that can explain the issues.”
  • Doctor Examining Male Patient With Knee Pain
    3. “Rheumatologists help you avoid joint surgery."
    If you experience a joint condition like osteoarthritis, you might be referred to an orthopedic surgeon. But Nathan Wei, MD, director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, Md., says surgery should not be your first (or only) option. “Rheumatologists are the doctors people should see first for any type of musculoskeletal complaint,” Dr. Wei says, “because we are taught how to use various medications and also are skilled in various procedures, such as injections or regenerative techniques, that can help people postpone or avoid surgery.”
  • Senior woman at doctor's office, doctor checking lymph nodes under jaw line
    4. “We often develop lifelong friendships with our patients.”
    Rheumatologists cultivate a good bedside manner to make you feel comfortable, and for good reason: They may be collaborating with you for the rest of your life. “A rheumatologist will continue to take care of the person for a long time, and the care for rheumatic diseases is a team effort that includes the doctor, the office staff, the patient, and their family and friends,” says Anca Askanase MD, clinical director of Columbia University Lupus Center in New York. “In addition to being knowledgeable, smart and caring, your rheumatologist should be someone you could be friends with if they were not your doctor.”
  • Senior woman using smart phone
    5. “You should call us sooner rather than later.”
    If you suspect you have an autoimmune disorder, you should not delay seeing a rheumatologist, because early intervention can greatly improve your quality of life. “The treatments for autoimmune types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, have improved significantly over the past decade,” says Lynn Ludmer, MD, a board-certified rheumatologist with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment can alter the prognosis of the disease, reducing the risk of developing joint damage and deformities in the future. We work closely with our patients to help them get back to living a functional and enjoyable life.”
  • Doctor, patient during sonogram
    6. “We can help you get through a high-risk autoimmune pregnancy.”
    Many women with lupus are told they should never get pregnant due to the significant risks involved. But a skilled rheumatologist can reduce the risk to both mother and baby. “The most surprising thing women learn about lupus is they can, in fact, have a normal pregnancy if their lupus is stable and they collaborate closely with their rheumatologist to keep tabs on their antibodies,” says Stuart Kaplan, MD, Chief of Rheumatology at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y., and partner in Rheumatology Consultants of Hewlitt, N.Y. “We can help many women come through a pregnancy without complications.”
6 Things Rheumatologists Want You to Know About Rheumatic Diseases
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 11
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.