Rheumatology is a specialty concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of people with painful musculoskeletal conditions.
The Consultant Rheumatologist is a physician, who, in addition to extensive undergraduate and postgraduate training in general medicine, has chosen to specialise in the field of rheumatology. They will often have undertaken a period of original research, resulting in publications, as part of this training.
There are two broad types of arthritis:
Firstly, inflammatory arthritis which is generated from the immune system and includes rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and connective tissue disease; Secondly osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, which reflects ‘wear and tear’, and loss of the cartilage within the joints. Gout and pseudogout are crystal arthropathies, from crystal deposition, which creates inflammation in a joint.
The rheumatologist is able to distinguish easily between these conditions, make the appropriate diagnosis and the best treatment plan. The rheumatologist is also skilled in joint and soft tissue injections for painful rheumatological conditions. These include injections for trochanteric bursitis, tennis and golfer’s elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, painful shoulder, knee aspiration and injection, together with other small and large joints.
Osteoporosis refers to thinning of the bones, which may result in fractures. This is a very important condition to treat and prevent.
There are now many effective, new treatments for this condition, from which many women (and some men) suffer. There are new, life-transforming drugs called anti TNFs available for the inflammatory forms of arthritis RA, PsA and AS and this is a very exciting area for treatment and research. Teamwork is essential in Rheumatology.
>Working with physiotherapists, podiatrists, specialist orthopaedics surgeons and pain consultants and can make a great deal of difference to our patients’ wellbeing.