When to See a Rheumatologist: A Conversation Between a Rheumatologist and a Family Physician

Apr 6, 2023 | Dr Grant Rogers, Dr Sharon Chambers, General Practice, Rheumatology

If you or someone you know is experiencing joint pain, stiffness, or swelling, it may be time to see a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of rheumatic diseases, which can affect the joints, muscles, bones, and organs. But how do you know when it’s time to see a rheumatologist? To answer this question, we spoke with Dr. Sharon Chambers, Rheumatologist, and Dr. Grant Rogers, GP. Here’s what they had to say:

What are some common rheumatic diseases?

Dr. Sharon Chambers, Rheumatologist: “Some common rheumatic diseases include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, and fibromyalgia. These diseases can cause a wide range of symptoms, such as joint pain, stiffness, swelling, fatigue, and fever.”

When should someone see a rheumatologist?

Dr. Grant Rogers, General Practitioner: “As a family physician, I often refer patients to rheumatologists when they have joint pain or swelling that is not responding to traditional treatments, such as over-the-counter pain relievers or physical therapy. I also refer patients who have a family history of rheumatic diseases or who have symptoms that suggest a systemic disease, such as lupus.”

Dr. Sharon Chambers, Rheumatologist: “I agree. It’s important to see a rheumatologist if you have persistent joint pain, stiffness, or swelling, especially if it’s affecting your ability to perform daily activities. In some cases, early intervention can help prevent long-term joint damage and disability.”

What can someone expect during a rheumatology appointment

Dr. Sharon Chambers, Rheumatologist: “During a rheumatology appointment, we’ll start by taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical exam. We may also order imaging tests, such as x-rays or MRIs, or blood tests to help diagnose your condition. Depending on your diagnosis, we may recommend a treatment plan that could include medications, lifestyle changes, or physical therapy.”

Dr. Grant Rogers, General Practitioner: “It’s also important to note that rheumatologists often work closely with other healthcare providers, such as physical therapists and occupational therapists, to provide comprehensive care. They may also collaborate with your primary care physician to monitor your overall health and manage any other conditions you may have.”

Final thoughts

If you’re experiencing joint pain, stiffness, or swelling, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about seeing a rheumatologist. With the right diagnosis and treatment, you can manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Remember, early intervention is key. So if you have any concerns, speak up and get the care you need.

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