WhatIsARheumatologist

What is a Rheumatologist?

Just as oncologists treat cancer and cardiologists care for the heart, rheumatologists are the specialists trained to diagnose and treat rheumatic diseases. Rheumatologists treat over 100 different forms of rheumatic diseases, arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. In addition to specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases, rheumatologists are care leaders, cost savers, and the solution for millions of Americans.

The Specialist

Rheumatologists complete four years of medical school, three years of training in either internal medicine or pediatrics, and two to three years of specialized training in rheumatology.

A rheumatologist is specially trained to identify rheumatic diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, scleroderma, juvenile arthritis, and Sjögren’s syndrome – and to facilitate treatment with the aim of achieving disease remission as soon as possible. To do this, rheumatologists must have comprehensive knowledge of the immune system and be experts in the administration of complex treatments (such as the biologics often used to treat cancer patients).

The Care Leader

Rheumatologists understand the impact of rheumatic diseases on the entire body. These diseases are chronic, so rheumatologists see their patients frequently and over a number of years – with many patients looking to them as care leaders.

Additionally, the expertise of rheumatologists is critical to educating and guiding referring physicians in identifying the red flags of a rheumatic disease and assisting in ongoing long-term patient care.

Rheumatologists involve a number of health care professionals in patient-care teams. Patients with a rheumatic disease often seek guidance on a number of physiological and emotional health concerns, as well as practical issues. Rheumatologists spearhead teams that can include nurse practitioners, physical therapists, psychologists and social workers.

The Cost Saver

Early and appropriate treatment by rheumatologist can delay, slow or even stop disease progression. When appropriate treatment is started early, medical costs, disability and work limitations due to rheumatic diseases can all be reduced.

Recent data indicates arthritis and other rheumatic diseases led to $127.8 billion in medical costs in the United States, nearly a quarter more than the $104 billion in costs for cancer care.

With early and appropriate referral to a rheumatologist, a person’s treatment plan can be specifically tailored by pinpointing which therapies are most effective –saving money and valuable time on unnecessary, poorly applied and possibly ineffective treatments.

The Solution

For the 11 million Americans suffering from rheumatic diseases, rheumatologists can provide answers, relief and hope.

The first weeks and months following the onset of rheumatic disease symptoms is called the window of opportunity – the short period of time in which patients who get appropriate treatment can diminish the long-term complications of their rheumatic disease. With diseases so complex and debilitating, seeing a rheumatologist during the window of opportunity is critical.

People with inflammatory rheumatic diseases face joint and organ destruction, severe pain, disability and even death. Rheumatologists, unlike any other health care providers, are equipped with the tools to detect and treat these diseases – providing solutions to help these patients live life to the fullest.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Resources

Rheumatic diseases can make simple tasks like brushing your teeth or eating painful, difficult and even impossible, but there is a window of opportunity for you to help.

To learn more about rheumatic diseases, rheumatologists, or the Simple Tasks campaign, contact Erin Latimer at (404) 633-3777 or elatimer@rheumatology.org.