Rheumatic diseases often strike people in the prime of life and can be crippling and life-changing. Rheumatologists are the specialists devoted to effectively diagnosing, managing and treating these diseases to help patients avoid serious co-existing diseases, disability and death.
Window of Opportunity
The first weeks and months following the onset of rheumatic disease symptoms are known as the “window of opportunity,” and it is crucial that patients get appropriate treatment in that time period to avoid long-term complications.1
Benefits of Early Treatment and Referral to a Rheumatologist after a Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis
Treatment early in the disease, even within the first 12 weeks for some, can prevent damage to joints and other organs, improve long-term function and increase the likelihood of achieving disease remission. When appropriate treatment is started early, medical costs, disability and work limitations due to rheumatic diseases can all be reduced.2
A rheumatologist is specially trained to identify rheumatic diseases and facilitate treatment with the aim of achieving remission as soon as possible. They have access to highly-effective medications and understand the importance of regular monitoring.
Furthermore, rheumatologists specially tailor patient treatment by pinpointing which treatments are most effective – saving money on unnecessary, poorly applied and possibly ineffective treatments and saving precious time for patients who have only a short window of opportunity to get their disease treated properly.
Proper treatment early and all throughout the course of disease enhances a person’s ability to work and carry out their daily responsibilities. It also reduces, and can even avoid, the downstream costs and health impact of dealing with disability, surgeries (e.g., joint replacement surgery) and even organ damage and loss (e.g., dialysis and organ transplantation for patients with kidney failure due to lupus).
1. DocGuide Website. (2011). Delaying RA treatment more than 12 weeks after symptom onset increases rate of joint destruction. Retrieved from http://www.docguide.com/delaying-ra-treatment-more-12-weeks-after-symptom-onset-increases-rate-joint-destruction.
2. Preidt R. Better outcomes seen with early rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. Bloomberg Business Week. http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/646578.html. Published November 30, 2010.