What is rheumatology?

Rheumatology is the field of medicine that is concerned with the evaluation and treatment of people with autoimmune conditions and joint diseases, including arthritis. Branches of rheumatology include basic research and clinical research, as well as clinical diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of patients with these illnesses.

Common Rheumatic Disorders

Years ago, conditions like this fell under the broad heading of rheumatism. Now there are more than 200 distinct rheumatic diseases. Among the most common ones are:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Lupus
  • Spondyloarthropathies — ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA)
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Gout
  • Scleroderma
  • Infectious arthritis
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica

How should patients prepare for their rheumatology visit?

Be prepared for questions about your health history for your visit with the rheumatologist. They will want to know about the history of your main complaint, including how long the symptoms and signs have been occurring, what situations or actions make the symptoms and signs better or worse, how intense the symptoms and signs are, what functions are impaired by the symptoms and signs, stiffness, pain, swelling, warmth, tenderness, fever, chills, weight loss or gain, sweats, tremor, tingling, numbness, breathing impairments, palpitations, and more. They will need to know what particular home remedies, medications, and therapies you have already tried and how they affected you. They will want to know your family history and past medical history, as well as underlying medical diseases and conditions. They also will need to know the names of each of your treating doctors. Bring all of your past testing results with you.

What Causes Rheumatic Disease?

Most of these conditions happen when your immune system goes awry and attacks your own tissues. Doctors aren’t sure what causes this. Sometimes it’s in your genes. Other times it’s a result of something in the world around you, like cigarette smoke, pollution, or something that causes an infection. Gender also plays a role — rheumatic diseases seem to affect women more than men.