• Reshma Khan MD

What is a ‘Rheumatologist’?

Updated: Apr 6, 2019




The rheumatism is a common name for many aches and pains, which have yet no peculiar appellation, though owing to very different causes.
– William Heberden


Rheumatologist is a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treatment of musculoskeletal diseases and systemic autoimmune diseases commonly known as ‘rheumatic diseases’. Rheumatologists are board certified internist who get special training in rheumatology. They get trained in internal medicine for 3 years after finishing medical school and then get further training for 2-3 years in rheumatology fellowship. They receive total 10-12 years of training before starting career as a Rheumatologists.

Approximately 30% of the U.S. population has arthritis and/or back pain (60 to 90 million). There are over 120 rheumatic diseases. These diseases can affect any organ of your body but more commonly joints, bones and muscles causing pain, swelling, stiffness and deformities. Systemic autoimmune conditions occur when your body’s immune system attacks your own organs causing inflammation and damage.

You may need an evaluation by a rheumatologist if you or your family members are suffering from muscle or joint pain from time to time which is not resolving as expected or progressively getting worse. You should get further evaluation for suspected symptoms if you have a family member with autoimmune or rheumatic diseases to check your risk of developing any of these diseases. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent joint/organ damage and improve your long-term outcome. There are more than 100 rheumatic diseases affecting joints, muscles and bones. Common diseases treated by rheumatologist are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, bursitis, tendonitis, trigger fingers, back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis etc..

Rheumatic diseases are sometimes complex in nature and difficult to diagnose. During your visit with rheumatologists you will be asked your complete medical history and will have complete physical exam to look for signs and symptoms of inflammation in your body. You may need to get further blood tests and imaging (commonly X-rays but sometimes other imaging such as ultrasound, MRI or CT scans are needed) to help confirm the diagnosis. They have special training in putting pieces of puzzles together with the help of history, physical exam and necessary tests that can lead to earlier diagnosis and are knowledgeable about testing that may reduce unnecessary testing and save you money.

Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity.
-Hippocrates
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