What is Rheumatology?

What is Rheumatology?

It’s a great question, as ‘Rheumatology’ is not an every day word that we use!

Rheumatology is the profession that deals with conditions affecting the connective tissue and the musculoskeletal system, including conditions such as arthritis, autoimmune connective tissues disorders such as Lupus, muscle and tendon disorders and musculoskeletal pains.

The word Rheumatology comes from the Greek word ‘rheuma’ which means ‘flows like a river’.

This may seem strange to apply this to the body as we know there is no river in the body! When we are stiff, aching or in pain or parts aren’t moving freely we know that we are not in the flow so to speak, so in that context it makes sense. The connective tissue and the musculoskeletal system are vital for our movement.

What is a Rheumatologist?

A Rheumatologist is a physician who specialises in the field of Rheumatology. They have done many years of study and work to become a physician and then they have done more years of work and study in this particular field to specialise in this field. A Rheumatologist is always undergoing continuous learning to stay up to date with the latest treatments and understanding of illness and disease.

What is Rheumatology the profession?

Rheumatology is a branch of conventional medicine that specialises in the diagnosis and management of ‘rheumatic’ diseases (also known as ‘Rheumatological diseases), which are conditions which affect the connective tissue and musculoskeletal tissues of the body, particularly muscles and joints.

These conditions can include what are called ‘autoimmune connective tissue disorders’ such as Lupus, but also include conditions more generally affecting the joints or muscles, such as arthritis, or myositis as well as general musculoskeletal pain syndromes such as shoulder, knee, hip and back pain. Many Rheumatologists also deal with sports injuries which affect the musculoskeletal system.

What conditions does a Rheumatologist treat?

A Rheumatologist treats a lot of conditions. A Rheumatologist is often a diagnostic expert as they look at the body as a whole, and not just one organ. Rheumatologists are often asked to see people who are ill for no obvious reason to see if there is perhaps an autoimmune connective tissue condition that is affecting them.

There are specific conditions that Rheumatologists are experts in diagnosing and treating:

  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune diseases (also known as Connective Tissue Diseases)
    • Autoimmune diseases are diseases where the body’s immune system is activated to fight itself.
    • Common autoimmune connective tissue diseases are:
      • Lupus (SLE), Dermatomyositis, Polymyositis, Giant cell arteritis (Temporal Arteritis), Wegeners Granulomatosis, Vasculitis, Myositis
  • Back Pain
  • Behcet’s Disease
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Dermatomyositis/Polymyositis
  • Eosinophilic Fasciitis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Giant Cell Arteritis (also known as Temporal arteritis)
  • Gout and Pseudogout
  • Joint pains
  • Muscle pains
  • Pain management
    •  Some rheumatologists also specialise in the management of chronic pain.

A Rheumatologist is a great person to see to diagnose the cause of musculoskeletal pain and arrange treatment of the cause to eliminate the pain.

  • Should the pain be ongoing and no cause is found that can be treated, then pain management specialists are the best doctors to assist.
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Seronegative arthritis
  • Sjogrens disease
  • Sports injuries and soft tissue injuries.
    • Injuries to the joints and tendons of the body can occur while playing sport, but most commonly through daily activities.
    • A Rheumatologist can assist in the diagnosis, and the management of these conditions such as shoulder pain, elbow pain, knee pain, Achilles Tendonitis.  
  • Tendonitis
  • Wegeners Granulomatosis

Some Rheumatologists remain more general, treating all conditions, whilst there are others who specialise in the treatment of one or 2 particular conditions. This more often happens in larger hospitals.