Rheumatology is a subspecialty in internal medicine and pediatrics that deals with the joints, soft tissues, autoimmune diseases and heritable connective tissue disorders. A rheumatologist specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and therapy of the rheumatic diseases.
Rheumatology and the rheumatic diseases are conditions of inflammation and auto-immunity. Arthritis, dermatomyositis, gout, lupus erythematosus, Lyme disease, mixed connective tissue disease, polychondritis, polymyositis, polymyalgia rheumatica, sarcoidosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, scleroderma and vasculitis are examples of diseases that fall under the category of rheumatology. Some soft tissue diseases associated with rheumatology include fibromyalgia, low back pain, tennis or golfer’s elbow, and olecranon bursitis. Diseases of rheumatology that affect bones are fluorosis, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, renal osteodystrophy and rickets. Several genetic disorders affecting the joints may be studied in rheumatology, including achondroplasia, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, hyperextensible joints and Marfan syndrome.
There are more than 200 diseases that may be treated by a rheumatologist.
Strategies used to manage patients in rheumatology may range from drug treatments, physical and occupational therapy, rehabilitation and even surgery in severe cases. Drug therapies range from anti-inflammatory drugs, to opiates, to antidepressants.
Recent advances in immunology and genealogy of rheumatic diseases have made rheumatology a growing field of study. Rheumatologists are currently exploring the association between immunology and autoimmune disorders. Novel agents known as biologics are emerging as an established treatment for patients with chronic and severe conditions of the locomotor system. Study of these agents and improvement of outcomes among patients with these conditions fall under the umbrella of rheumatology.
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