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Rheumatology is a sub-specialty in internal medicine that is devoted to the diagnosis and therapy of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatologists deal mainly with clinical problems involving joints, soft tissues and the allied conditions of connective tissues.  The term "rheumatology" originates from the Greek word "rheuma", meaning "that which flows as a river or stream", and the suffix "-ology", meaning "the study of."



Rheumatologists treat arthritis, certain autoimmune disease (when the body comes under attack by its own immune system), musculoskeletal pain and osteoporosis.  There are more than 100 types of these rheumatic conditions.  A few of them are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and tendinitis.  If muscle or joint pains are not severe and began just a few days before, it makes sense to give the problem time to resolve on its own.  But sometimes, pain in the joints, muscles or bones is severe or lasts more than a few days.  At that point, you should see your doctor. Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easy to find in the early stage, and you may need to see a specialist. Rheumatologists are specially trained to find the cause of joint swelling and pain.  It is important for patients to get a correct diagnosis early so that proper treatment can begin.  Some musculoskeletal problems respond best to treatment in the early stages of disease.



Rheumatologic diseases are complex, tend to be chronic (long term), and often change over time.  Sometimes the condition gets worse, and sometimes they go away for a while and then return.  Rheumatologists work closely with patients to find the problem and design a treatment plan.  You may be surprised to learn that specialized care may save time and money and reduce the severity of the disease.  A rheumatologist has special training to spot clues in the history and physical exam.  The proper tests done early and may save money in the long run. Prompt diagnosis and specially tailored treatment often save money and minimize the long-term effects of rheumatic diseases. Sometimes the rheumatologist acts as a consultant to advise another doctor about a diagnosis and treatment plan, and in other cases the rheumatologist acts as a manager and relies on the help of many skilled professionsals.  Teamwork is important and involves the patient, physician and other healthcare professionals including nurses, physical/occupational therapy.

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