A rheumatologist is a physician who is qualified by additional training and experience in the diagnosis (detection) and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones.
Rheumatology is a subspecialty of internal medicine. Doctors who specialize in rheumatology are referred to as rheumatologists. They diagnose and focus on non-surgical treatment of arthritis and related problems involving joints, soft tissues, auto-immune diseases, vasculitis, and heritable connective tissue disorders. Many of these diseases are now known to be disorders of the immune system, and rheumatology is increasingly the study of immunology.
Rheumatism is a colloquial term referring to any painful disorder affecting the loco-motor system including joints, muscles, connective tissues, soft tissues around the joints, and bones.
Rheumatologists are MD or DO medical degree doctors dealing with arthritis and disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, lupus erythematosus, osteoporosis, back pain, osteoarthritis, and many other related diseases. There are more than 200 types of these diseases. Some of these are very serious diseases that can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
Rheumatology training involves a bachelor’s degree followed by 4 years of medical school, 1 year of internship in internal medicine, 2 years of internal medicine residency, and 2 years of rheumatology fellowship. The American College of Rheumatology oversees the board certification of qualified rheumatologists.
Arthritis patients, especially early in the course of their disease, want to know if it is necessary to go to a specialist in rheumatology. They likely already have a rapport with a good doctor- so can’t that doctor diagnose and treat arthritis? If you have osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, these common conditions can usually be managed by your primary doctor, especially if you have a mild case. There are some cases that become advanced and require a rheumatology consultation.
For more complicated types of arthritis, a rheumatology consult can be extremely helpful since a rheumatologist deals with the complexities of rheumatic disease and treatment options on a daily basis. It is always best to get good advice sooner than later.