Rheumatology is an established & rapidly evolving subspecialty of medicine which deals with the investigations, diagnoses & management of over 200 rheumatic disorders which affect the joints, bones, muscles & soft tissues.
Conditions managed by the rheumatologists are:
- Inflammatory arthritis (Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Gout etc)
- Inflammatory back pain (Ankylosing Spondylitis)
- Connective tissue diseases (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Scleroderma etc)
- Inflammatory muscle disease ( Polymyositis)
- Inflammation in the blood vessels (Vasculitis)
- Mechanical neck, back & soft tissue pain
- Chronic generalised pain syndrome (Fibromyalgia)
- Numbness of the hands (Carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Degenerative joint diseases (Osteoarthritis)
- Diseases of the bones (Osteoporosis)
Who should see a rheumatologist?
Those patients who have symptoms of localised or generalised joint, bone, muscle, neck, back or soft tissue pain, joint swelling, early morning stiffness, muscular weakness, numbness of the hands, weak bones & otherwise unexplained skin rashes, should see a rheumatologist for the proper evaluation & the appropriate treatment.
The diagnosis is established by:
- A thorough history and Physical Examination.
- Blood & Urine investigations.
- X-rays and Ultrasound.
- CT, MRI, DEXA & bone scans. Withdrawing joint fluid by inserting a needle into the joint & subsequently examining the fluid in a laboratory.
The diseases are treated with advice to change the patient’s lifestyle, physiotherapy, painkillers, anti-inflammatory & corticosteroids tablets & injections. Depending on the diagnosis, medicines to suppress or modulate the overactive or misdirected immune system are also used to control the disease symptoms.
Injections into the joints, soft tissues & nerve blocks with steroid & local anesthetic are also carried out to provide immediate relief from the disabling painful symptoms.