Main Role of Rheumatology
The Role of the Rheumatologist
You might wonder why you have been referred to a specialist instead of working primarily with your family doctor. Although you will still see your family doctor for other health concerns, rheumatologists are doctors who are specially trained in the treatment of arthritic diseases and will provide the leadership on your rheumatoid arthritis treatment.
"There is a Chinese saying that even the man who knows a thousand things should consult the man who knows one," observes John M. Stuart, MD, professor of medicine and rheumatology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. "By focusing on a small group of diseases, rheumatologists are more systematic in their approach to evaluating the nature of the arthritis, how quickly it is progressing, and what are the very latest treatments available."
In addition to staying on top of current developments in rheumatoid arthritis treatment, a rheumatologist's practice will be able to monitor your rheumatoid arthritis treatment closely and identify any possible side effects or need for changes in treatment before problems develop. "There is still a lot of art in the care of patients with RA," says Dr. Stuart.
Search and Find
A little bit of groundwork can go a long way toward finding a well-qualified rheumatologist to manage your treatment. Follow these tips when starting your search.
- Ask for referrals.Your primary care physician is a great place to start.
- Find a specialist.Locate rheumatologists in your area, and find out what other patients think of him or her.
- Check qualifications.Make sure the rheumatologist is board-certified or specifically licensed for the field.
- Conduct interviews.Set up appointments to talk with several rheumatologists before making your final decision. Think about what you want and need from the doctor and prepare a list of questions to bring with you.
Other Health Professionals in Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Once you've found a reliable rheumatologist, it's important to talk about other medical professionals who may be involved in your treatment. A team-based approach is very helpful in managing rheumatoid arthritis because of the long-term, complex way RA affects the body. "Medicine has progressed so rapidly in the last couple of decades that no physician can keep up with all of the changes," says Stuart. "The best medical care is necessarily team-based."
Here are some of the key players you may consider:
Orthopedistsspecialize in treating bone and joint problems, are important for people with rheumatoid arthritis whose joints need replacing. "Orthopedists also repair broken tendons, relieve nerve compression syndromes, and remove difficult nodules," notes Stuart, who says these types of complications are fewer and fewer.
Physical therapistsare trained to understand how the body moves so that they can help people learn how to move comfortably. A physical therapist can help you plan a fitness routine that works for your body at every stage of rheumatoid arthritis treatment, figure out how to be safe and comfortable at home, assist with learning to use braces and adaptive technologies, and identify any changes you need to make in the way you function at work or at home. "The physical therapist is very valuable in helping maintain muscle strength without over-stressing the joints," says Stuart.
Physical medicine specialists and podiatristsare two of the many professionals who might be called if a person with rheumatoid arthritis need braces, modified shoes, or other adaptive technologies so they can be as mobile and independent as possible.
Video: DR ROD HUGHES 'THE ROLE OF A RHEUMATOLOGIST'
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