A rheumatologist is a board-certified internist or pediatrician who is qualified by additional training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles, and bones.
After four years of medical school and three years of training in either internal medicine or pediatrics, rheumatologists devote an additional two to three years in specialized rheumatology training. Most rheumatologists who plan to treat patients choose to become board certified. Upon completion of their training, they must pass a rigorous exam conducted by the American Board of Internal Medicine to become certified.
There are more than 100 types of rheumatologic diseases, including:
Sometimes, pain in the joints, muscles, or bones is severe or persists for more than a few days. At that point, you should see your physician.
Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages. Rheumatologists are specially trained to do the detective work necessary to discover the cause of swelling and pain. It's important to determine a correct diagnosis early so that appropriate treatment can begin early. Some musculoskeletal disorders respond best to treatment in the early stages of the disease.
These diseases often change or evolve over time. Rheumatologists work closely with patients to identify the problem and design an individualized treatment program.
The role the rheumatologist plays in health care depends on several factors and needs. Typically the rheumatologist works with other physicians, sometimes acting as a consultant to advise another physician about a specific diagnosis and treatment plan. In other situations, the rheumatologist acts as a manager, relying upon the help of many skilled professionals including nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, and social workers. Teamwork is important, since musculoskeletal disorders are chronic. Health care professionals can help people with musculoskeletal diseases and their families cope with the changes the diseases cause in their lives.
With the largest group of rheumatologists in the country, Hospital for Special Surgery is a world leader in the research and treatment of rheumatic disease. HSS embraces a philosophy of integrative care. Your rheumatologist will refer you, as needed, to our staff of expert orthopaedists, physical and occupational therapists, and psychological support services, as well as non-traditional health care providers.
If appropriate, you may also choose to participate in one of our clinical trials, which provide you with early access to new medications under investigation.