Rheumatologists are specialized internists capable of treating autoimmune disorders and those that affect our joints, soft tissues and muscles, and may incorporate facets of immunology.
Rheumatologists are specialized internists that are trained to diagnose, treat and manage arthritis and other rheumatic disorders in patients. Rheumatologists are specially trained to treat these conditions affecting the joints, bones, muscles, and at times, other organ systems. Often times, rheumatic disorders affect connective and soft tissues of the joints, causing pain or immobility in patients. Symptoms diagnosed and treated in the field of rheumatology include muscle, bone, and joint pain, among others.
Disorders and diseases treated include rheumatism, arthritis, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, schleroderma, tendonitis, lupus, Marfan’s syndrome, fibromyalgia, sarcoidosis, rickets, and many others, as rheumatologists are also trained in the field of internal medicine. To treat these and other diseases, rheumatologists are trained to craft a personalized treatment plan for each patient. Treatment techniques may include the prescription of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, orthopedic assistive devices (such as a brace or walking cane), physical therapy, education regarding proper diet and exercise (which is vastly important for those with rheumatic disorders), corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs.
Often times, rheumatologists may serve as consultants to general or family practitioners seeking specialized advice when providing care to patients with arthritis or similar rheumatic diseases. In serious cases of rheumatism or arthritis, rheumatologists may serve as the head of a medical team, providing total care to the patient as part of a multidisciplinary team. Rheumatologists play a key role in providing patients with a higher quality of life, as many rheumatic patients can experience excruciating pain and severe mobility issues.
The training and education to become a rheumatologist begins with the completion of a bachelor’s degree before attending medical school. Following graduation from an accredited medical school with an MD or DO degree, the physician must complete a residency in either internal medicine or pediatrics, which usually include a one year internship.
After four years of residency training, the physician is required to complete a two to three year fellowship program in the field of rheumatology. During the rheumatology fellowship, the physician will become versed in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatism and other arthritis-related complications. Fellowship training provides the physician with the opportunity to provide clinical care to patients suffering from rheumatism and related disorders, as well as the opportunity to complete research in the field.
Most rheumatologists seek board certification through the American Board of Internal Medicine following completion of the fellowship. In order to maintain certification, board certified rheumatologists must adhere to and complete Maintenance of Certification requirements; rheumatologists must also be licensed to provide medical care from the state(s) in they practice.