A rheumatologist is a specialist in the field of rheumatology who has received postgraduate training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. Apart from the main types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, a rheumatologist may treat 100 different types of pain and musculoskeletal disorders, including autoimmune diseases, back pain, fibromyalgia, gout, lupus, osteoporosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, spondylitis, Still’s disease and tendinitis.
Some of the symptoms that require the intervention of a rheumatologist include anemia, anorexia, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, unexplained rash or fever, weakness or weight loss.
Rheumatologists may be internists or pediatricians, and many conduct research into the causes and treatments for the various diseases they treat. Requirements for this title include a board certification after specialized training and attaining a medical degree (MD or DO) through fellowship programs in the United States, or specialist registrar positions in the United Kingdom. Other parts of the world may have different requirements.
A rheumatologist may work with other physicians as a consultant or may act as a manager overseeing nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers. Because musculoskeletal disorders are chronic, prolonged collaboration is generally necessary. Also due to the chronic nature of many disorders treated by a rheumatologist, patients often become educated about their disorder and their treatment and work closely with an occupational therapist. Rheumatologists often treat soft tissue problems associated with sports-related disorders, but the field is also linked to physiotherapy, physical medicine and rehabilitation of disabled patients.
Patients are encouraged to see a general physician if musculoskeletal complaints persist for an extended period of time and a rheumatologist if the general physician is unable to diagnose the problem.
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