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Rheumatology Specialist Doctor
Rheumatology Specialist Doctor
If you often experience pain, soreness, or stiffness in your knees, elbows, or wrists, you may be dealing with something called joint disease. Even if you feel that the pain has not interfered with your daily life, it is best you see a rheumatologist before it gets worse.
A rheumatologist is a doctor that specialises in treating rheumatism. This disease occurs due to inflammation or swelling of the muscles or joints, which can cause pain and discomfort. There are more than 100 types of rheumatic diseases.
A person who is dealing with rheumatism, will often feel inflammatory joint pain, especially in the morning. Although it occurs more commonly in patients over the age of 40, this disease can also strike at a young age.
If you feel symptoms of inflammation in the fingers and toes at a young age, you will most likely experience arthritis when you become an adult. The earlier you see a rheumatologist, the faster these symptoms will be treated and resolved.
Rheumatology specialist doctors or also known as rheumatologists, are specialist doctors that treat various health problems in joints, bones, muscles, and soft tissues. This specialist doctor masters rheumatology, which is a branch of internal medicine that not only studies the disease, but also how to function, how to maintain, and overcome various disorders that occur in joints, bones, muscles and soft tissues. From the etymological side, rheumatology comes from the word “rheuma” which is defined as “related to joints”.
Diseases Treated by Rheumatologists
There are various types of rheumatic diseases out there and the field of rheumatology knowledge is still developing to deal with these diseases. Until now, the cause of rheumatism is still not known with certainty. However, genetic factors play an important role in influencing the risks of developing diseases that attack these joints.
Women are apparently more likely to suffer from rheumatism compared to men. The hormone estrogen in women, can sometimes trigger fluctuations in the immune system which leads to an attack on the immune system itself. This can have an impact on the swollen joints. In addition, rheumatic disease is also more likely to appear in someone who has parents with the disease (congenital). The same case may apply to people with obesity or who are overweight, forcing the joints to support the excessive body weight and causing arthritis.
The following are several types of diseases that can be treated by a rheumatologist:
- Sjögren’s syndrome.
- Psoriatic arthritis.
- Rheumatic polymyalgia.
- Antiphospholipid syndrome.
- Infections of joints, bones and muscles.
- Vasculitis or inflammation in the blood vessels.
- Osteoarthritis, or more commonly known as gout. This disease refers to the condition of calcification of the joints that causes swollen and reddish joints. The emergence of this disease is caused by the high levels of uric acid content in the body, due to consuming too much food high in purines. The most common symptom is sudden and severe pain in the joints. It starts in the morning and is often felt again at midnight. Another symptom is that the joints feels hot to the touch or warmer than your surrounding skin. It is found that gout is more common in men in the 30-50 year age range.
- Rheumatoid arthritis, or often abbreviated as RA – a type of autoimmune disease that affects the joints. Autoimmune disease is a type of immune system disorder that actually reacts to healthy tissues in the body. One of the effects is inflammation of the joints, especially the small joints in the fingers and wrists. This disease can occur symmetrically, both on the left and right of the body, so it can interfere with activities if left untreated. Symptoms that arise from RA are reddish joints along with stiffness, pain, limited joint movement – whether on the feet, hands, elbows, neck, and knees. In contrast to gout, RA disease occurs more often in women.
- Ankylosing spondylitis, or better known as spondylitis, is inflammation of the joints that occur in the spine, causing back pain. This disease is often experienced by office workers who sit for hours. This disease is characterised by pain and stiffness from the neck to the lower back, bent posture, and fatigue. If not treated immediately, spondylitis can risk affecting the function of the eyes, ranging from swelling to reduced visual acuity.
- Fibromyalgia, a rheumatic disease that causes chronic fatigue (long term) and muscle tension. Light activities like getting out of bed can be difficult for people with fibromyalgia, which interferes with their daily activities.
- Lupus, an autoimmune disease that can cause chronic inflammation. This immune disorder disease can attack the tissues, cells and various organs of the body such as joints, blood, bones, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, and spine.
Medical Procedures Rheumatologists Can Perform
A patient who consults a rheumatology specialist doctor will first undergo an examination. At this initial stage, the doctor will conduct a physical examination and medical interview to learn about the patient’s medical history. Apart from being used to trace the patient’s medical history, medical interviews are also conducted to find out whether there are genetic factors affecting the patient’s condition. In addition, patients will be asked about the symptoms and complaints they are experiencing. To get a proper diagnosis, rheumatologists also advise patients to perform supporting examinations, such as:
- Radiology or imaging tests, to get a clearer picture of the conditions in the body, especially the joints. Imaging tests include: ultrasound, CT scan, bone density test, and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
- Laboratory tests, to find out various contents in the body, such as: bone examination due to arthritis, C-reactive protein examination, complete blood count, joint fluid analysis, and sedimentation rate test.
From those tests, the rheumatologist will determine the appropriate treatment for the patient. Naturally, medical procedures and treatment performed by rheumatology specialist doctors are non-surgical – ranging from administering medications to therapy if necessary. In some cases, patients require physiotherapy. This therapy is generally performed under the supervision of a rehabilitation specialist (physiatrist).
When to See a Rheumatologist?
Joint-related health disorders require proper and prompt treatment. This is necessary to lower the risk and reduce the potential for damage to joints, bones and muscles that may interfere with bodily functions.
Although joint pain problems can be handled by a general practitioner, it is advisable to consult a rheumatologist if you experience the following symptoms:
- Decreased joint function and difficulty moving.
- Changes in the shape of the bones and joints.
- Reddish and swollen joints.
- Severe and long-lasting joint pain
- Extreme stiffness in joints and muscles, limited range of motion
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