As we age, aches and pains can become more common. Are your joints not as flexible as they used to be? Does it feel like your muscles are tight and tense all the time? If so, you may wonder if you are suffering from arthritis or another rheumatic disease. It’s important to understand what rheumatology is. According to the American College of Rheumatology, “an estimated 50 million people in the United States of all ages and genders have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions,” that's approximately 15% of the population of the United States.
Through this blog (originally posted in 2019), we’ll walk through all that you need to know about rheumatology, as well as when you should visit a provider to help ease any discomfort you may be having.
The Basics of Rheumatology
By definition, rheumatology is “the study of rheumatism, arthritis, and other disorders of the joints, muscles, and ligaments.” This particular medical field is a subspecialty in internal medicine and pediatrics. Beyond bones, joints, and muscles, health problems affecting internal organs like kidneys, lungs, brain, blood vessels, and any diseases from musculoskeletal to autoimmune conditions fall under this field and the care of a rheumatologist. Many of the issues related to rheumatic diseases are quite complex, and some symptoms include:
- Pain in joints and muscles
Rheumatologists are medical experts who are board-certified and often work in outpatient clinics like Voyage Healthcare. Our rheumatology department offers comprehensive care for patients suffering from any type of rheumatic disease and will diagnose, assess, and treat common conditions such as arthritis (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis), gout, chronic joint pain, chronic back pain, tendonitis, and lupus, among many others.
What Causes a Rheumatic Disease?
Most causes of rheumatic diseases occur when the immune system has an issue. Sometimes, the immune system attacks natural, healthy tissue and causes damage. Often, doctors are unsure of what causes these types of problems, but it is understood that there are two main factors: genetic or environmental. There are also gender components to rheumatic diseases, as females tend to be affected more so than males.
When Should You Visit a Rheumatologist?
Muscle and joint pain affect almost everyone at some point in time, but the difference between whether or not you should visit a rheumatologist is when the issues are not resolving themselves.
Visit Your Provider If:
- Issues are continually getting worse
- Issues return after temporarily resolving
It’s critical to get your symptoms checked sooner rather than later, as joint damage may occur if the problem is ignored or not treated correctly.
What Should You Bring to Your Rheumatology Visit?
For your first rheumatologist visit, you’re going to want to have these four things:
- Previous test results from labs, radiographic X-rays, ultrasounds, MRI, etc. (while many times records are sent to the rheumatologist by the referring physician, they may not always be present)
- A list of up-to-date medications
- A list of any allergies
- Information on your family health history
Visiting the rheumatologist for the first time is a step towards recovery. It is common for a provider to collect medical history and perform a physical exam upon the first visit. If you need to know how to create a family medical guide, read our blog How to Gather Your Family Health History Information. There may also be additional testing to assess symptoms and inflammation.
Treatment for rheumatic diseases includes medications, physical therapy, injections into the joint or tendon, and sometimes surgery. Each treatment plan is unique and personalized for the patient, as some diagnoses require multiple visits to understand the issue and how to treat it adequately.
How to Maintain Quality of Life with Rheumatic Diseases
Once you’ve been diagnosed, it's essential that you begin treatment to get you back to living your best life. Below are some critical steps you’ll want to take to get back to having a healthier quality of life.
- Follow your plan for treatment
- Be active in your own care
- Lead a healthier lifestyle by exercising and eating right
- Openly communicate with your provider and/or rheumatologist
- Educate yourself on the disease
- Don’t give up
- Seek support when needed
- Remain positive
Rheumatology at Voyage Healthcare
Rheumatology is something that many people live with, so remember that you are not alone. Take back your life and remove painful issues with help from Voyage Healthcare. If you are ready to start living a healthier and happier life, schedule an appointment today at one of our two locations that treat rheumatology, Robbinsdale and Maple Grove.
Voyage Healthcare also provides infusion services for our patients with biologic agents for autoimmune diseases. Our team helps patients with their insurance needs for the infusions, as well as helps with appropriate referrals to other specialties such as rehab programs, weight loss and braces, and more.
Still have questions about rheumatic diseases? Check out our in-depth guide: Everything You Need to Know About Rheumatology.