What is Rheumatology?
Rheumatology is the medical specialty that is concerned with arthritis and other diseases of inflammation. Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body, but it is most common in the joints and connective tissues. Arthritis, which occurs in the joints, is also a very common condition, so rheumatology is strongly associated with joint care. But rheumatology is about more that just arthritis. Other conditions that a rheumatologist might treat include:
Lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease
Ankylosing spondylitis, inflammation at the base of the spine
Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that stops production of tears and saliva
Fibromyalgia, a disorder causing widespread, chronic pain and fatigue
Pediatric rheumatologists are doctors that specialize in treating inflammatory diseases in children. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory diseases can begin even in childhood, and can cause a unique set of problems for active and growing children.
Rheumatologists use patient symptoms as well as lab tests and imaging tests such as MRIs to diagnose disease. Treatment varies widely depending on the diagnosis, but it may include physiotherapy (to improve motion, ability, and function) or medications. Commonly prescribed medications include anti-inflammatories such as NSAIDS (e.g. Tylenol, Ibuprofen) and steroids, or immune system suppressants such as methotrexate and TNF inhibitor medications (e.g. Enbrel, Humira). The goal is always to increase the patient’s ability to move without pain and to reduce the need for future treatment.