When Should You See a Rheumatologist?

Many disorders affect the joints, both large and small. Joint disease may occur from a variety of causes including trauma, advancing age, genetics, and having a collagen vascular disorder. Irrespective of the cause, the classic symptoms of joint disease will include:

  • Pain which may be constant, gnawing, and throbbing. The pain may be worse in cold weather and following periods of prolonged rest
  • Swelling: the joint may appear swollen due to fluid
  • Stiffness is common first thing in the morning and may improve with exercise
  • You may have symptoms in one or more joints including your neck and back 

If you are living with these symptoms, you may be wondering when to see a rheumatologist. 

Associated Symptoms

Depending on the type of arthritis, other symptoms may also occur and include:

  • Fatigue
  • General malaise
  • Fever
  • Weight Gain
  • Skin rash

Reasons to See a Rheumatologist

When the joint pain and swelling lasts a few days or is recurrent and unresponsive to over-the-counter medications, it is important to see a rheumatologist. Sometimes, you may be referred to the rheumatologist for an abnormal blood test or x-ray. The reason is that there are many causes of joint pain and swelling. Rheumatologists are specialists trained in the diagnosis and management of different types of bone and joint disease. Because many rheumatological disorders also affect other parts of the body besides the joint, the rheumatologist is well trained to detect problems with the heart, eye, skin, genitals, kidneys, brain, and lung. 

Determining the cause of arthritis usually requires special laboratory and radiological tests. Consultation with many other specialists may be required when other organs are also affected.

When it comes to diseases of the joints, the earlier treatment is started, the better the outcomes. More important, many disorders of the joint may flare up in the future leading to disabling symptoms and thus, lifelong follow-up with the rheumatologist is often necessary.

Your Health Care Team 

Because of the complex nature of these disorders and the different treatments, rheumatologists will work with a team of healthcare specialists that include the following:

  • Physical and occupational therapist
  • Orthopedic surgeon- bone surgeon
  • Radiologist
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Ophthalmologist- eye doctor
  • Nephrologist- kidney doctor
  • Neurologist- brain specialist
  • Psychiatrist

What Type of Disorders Do Rheumatologists Treat?

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus arthritis
  • Lyme arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Low back and neck pain
  • Tendinitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Sjogren disease
  • Scleroderma
  • Osteoporosis
  • Gout
  • Fibromyalgia

Benefit for the Patient

Because most disorders of the joint are complex, the benefit of seeing the rheumatologist includes the following:

  • Because of team care, the patient benefits from collective experience of a large group of specialist
  • Rheumatologists are usually aware of the latest clinical trials on rheumatic disorders
  • Rheumatologists know the efficacy of drugs for the treatment of each arthritic disorder
  • Each patient treatment is individualized and a care plan is developed 
  • The rheumatologist will regularly communicate with your primary care provider about all your treatments and future goals
  • Your functional status will be maximized and the quality of life will be improved

So, when to see a rheumatologist? When you are experiencing symptoms we have described above – and when you want to find relief and improve your quality of life. Contact Cano Health today. We are here to help. 


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