Who is Your Rheumatologist?
What Do Local Rheumatologists Treat?
Some of the autoimmune conditions a rheumatologist treats include:
Arthritis: Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation in one or more joints. There are many different types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, shoulder arthritis, thumb arthritis, and enteropathic arthritis. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, your local rheumatologist may prescribe you medication such as prednisone or methotrexate. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, getting regular exercise to strengthen your core, legs, shoulders, and arms, and making healthy lifestyle changes can all be a part of living with arthritis.
Living with arthritis requires a multi-faceted approach. In addition to working with a local rheumatologist, you may benefit from seeking treatment from a local physiotherapist, local kinesiologist, or local athletic therapist.
Polymyalgia rheumatica: Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory disorder that affects more women than men and causes pain and stiffness in the shoulders and the hips. In about 50% of people who get polymyalgia rheumatica, it goes away in a few months to a few years. In this case, it’s called a self-limited disease. However, in other patients, PR can be a long-term condition.
Giant cell arteritis: Giant cell arteritis is a disease of the small blood vessels and usually presents with swelling and thickening of the small arteries in and around the temporal arteries. Patients often present with headaches in the temporal region. Health experts don’t understand the exact causes of giant cell arteritis. The most common arteries affected by GCA are around the head and neck, especially the area around the temples.
Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain problem that is often confused with arthritis. Fibromyalgia syndrome affects the muscles and soft tissue. Symptoms include chronic muscle pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender points or trigger points.
Vasculitis: This autoimmune disease causes inflammation and narrowing of the blood vessels. These blood vessels carry the blood to and from your heart and organs. Vasculitis can be a serious disease that causes organ damage or death.
Lupus: Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue throughout the body. The inflammation can affect numerous body systems, from your joints to your lungs. Lupus can be a challenging disease to diagnose as its signs and symptoms mimic those of other ailments.
Lyme Disease: Spread through a tick bite, Lyme disease is rare. Patients can develop spirochetes (a spiral bacteria), which may lead to Lyme disease symptoms. People who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease need to start treatment right away. Lyme disease treatment usually consists of oral antibiotics you can pick up from your local pharmacist.
Raynaud’s Phenomenon: Also known as RP, Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that reduces blood flow to your extremities (generally the fingers and toes). Usually, attacks of Raynaud’s are caused by exposure to cold temperatures. These episodes may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Treatment can include avoiding repetitive motions, stress, and caffeine.
Eosinophilic Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis: Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis belongs to a family of arthritic diseases called vasculitis. However, unlike other types of vasculitis, everyone who has this disease also has asthma. If you have eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, the small blood vessels that supply tissues in the lungs, skin, sinuses, nerves, and almost every other organ may become inflamed. This inflammation can affect almost every organ in the body.
Treatment Options for Autoimmune Conditions
Your local rheumatologist will need to make a diagnosis of your health condition before recommending a treatment plan. Diagnosing your autoimmune condition may involve a physical exam, blood tests, diagnostic testing such as an x-ray or MRI, and consideration of your medical history.
Treatment may include medications, supplements such as calcium, bracing, and lifestyle changes. Following a healthy nutrition plan that’s low in fats, drinking lots of water, exercising, and quitting drinking are a good start. If the patient is a child or teen, it’s important to work with a health care provider who understands children’s and teens’ nutrition.
If you have questions about how a rheumatologist might help you, talk to your local health care provider.