What Is The Difference Between A Rheumatologist Vs An Orthopedist
If youre experiencing joint pain, you want to know where to go to seek relief. Joint pain can be debilitating, making even the most ordinary everyday tasks unbearable, making it an urgent problem to get treated. But who is the best specialist to treat your joint pain: a rheumatologist or an orthopedist? While there is overlap between rheumatology and orthopedics specialists , its important to understand the core differences between these 2 specialties to make an informed decision about which provider would be best for you.
The main difference between rheumatology and orthopedics is that orthopedists are surgical specialists, whereas rheumatologists are medical specialists who use medication and other nonsurgical treatments. If youre unaware of which specialist would be best for your medical condition, its wise to seek the guidance of your primary care provider to guide you in the right direction.
The Importance Of Early Diagnosis
Many people are not aware that arthritis itself is not a diagnosis. It is a general word used to describe over a hundred diseases and related conditions. If you actually have arthritis, knowing the kind of arthritis is the first step towards receiving the right treatment and care for your condition.
Some types of arthritis have to be treated early. If the condition you have can result in permanent joint damage, receiving treatment on time may help ensure your joint stays functional and avert other serious health complications.
On the other hand, irregular or minor joint aches may not demand a special or immediate doctor visit. Although it is better and safer to discuss your joint health and risks of arthritis early with your doctor, you may still be able to postpone the discussion until your next checkup.
When You Know You Have The Right Match
Traci Lynn Martin, a neonatal ICU nurse and expedition kayaker from Lees Summit, Missouri, found out she had rheumatoid arthritis, she went to a few rheumatologists before she found the right chemistry.
The first person I saw I didnt like, Martin says, because I didnt feel like he was listening to me. He had a formula with questions and it wasnt personalized. It was important for me to stay active, to be able to do my triathlons, and long distance kayaking that I had done my whole life.
Friends referred her to other specialists, but she knew right away when she found the right rheumatologist. He sits down and doesnt rush in and out and doesnt leave the room until I am happy, Martin says. I walked out of there so happy after the first visit, I felt like I had someone who was listening to me for the first time since my diagnosis.
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Why Choose An Internal Medicine Physician
Arthritis is a complex condition that can be difficult to diagnose. Internal medicine doctors are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of such conditions. They will be able to distinguish the symptoms of arthritis from other conditions.
Internal medicine physicians have a thorough understanding of the types of medical treatments arthritis patients need. They can prescribe medications and administer injections to reduce pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. They also understand the complexities of the human body and can recommend treatments that will best suit your body.
Another added benefit of getting your arthritis treated by an internal medicine physician is that you can get medical care for other conditions at the same time. It can be a hassle and time consuming to juggle multiple doctors and visit different offices for every medical need you have. Fortunately, internal medicine physicians are qualified to treat all types of conditions and can take care of a variety of health issues you may be having not just arthritis.
Do You Have Joint Pain We Can Help
At Orthopedic Specialists of Southwest Florida, we understand how chronic pain is disruptive to your quality of life. At our practice, we can help you find the relief you crave from your joint pain, sports injuries, or other orthopedic concerns. If youve sustained disability or suffer from pain from arthritis, body trauma, an injury accident, or something similar, our orthopedics treatments can help.
For more information or to schedule a consultation at Orthopedic Specialists of Southwest Florida, please call 215-2008 today or reach out online to book an appointment.
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How Is Spinal Arthritis Diagnosed
Your doctor may use some or all of the following diagnostic methods to confirm spinal arthritis:
Medical history and physical exam
Blood tests for genetic markers and/or RA antibodies
X-rays of the spine to locate the arthritic joint
Joint aspiration: testing of the synovial fluid inside a joint
To pinpoint the painful joint, your doctor may numb it with an injection and check whether the pain goes away.
What Are Some Red Flags To Watch Out For When Picking A Rheumatologist
Be wary of someone who doesnt look you in the eye eye contact is crucial, Ginsberg believes.
If the doctors head is buried in your chart or electronic health record during your appointment, thats a red flag. You want someone who relates to you, not your chart or lab results, he says.
Another major red flag is when doctors, nurses, or other members of the office staff dont respond to your phone calls.
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Delays In Getting Diagnosed With Psoriatic Arthritis Are All Too Common Knowing What To Expect May Help Speed Up The Process
If your shoes are feeling tighter than usual or youre having difficulty or pain opening jars, a type of autoimmune disorder called psoriatic arthritis could be to blame. PsA is an inflammatory arthritis linked to psoriasis . It is characterized by pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints although these general arthritis symptoms can take on specific characteristics when they are caused by psoriatic arthritis
As with many conditions, early diagnosis and prompt treatment are important. If you put off seeing the doctor, there are two major concerns with a delayed psoriatic arthritis diagnosis, says Bharat Kumar, MD, Associate Rheumatology Fellowship Program Director at University of Iowa Health Care and member of the American College of Rheumatology.
First, he explains, disease activity may worsen and cause lasting joint damage. Second, PsA is linked to a higher rate of heart disease, so the sooner youre diagnosed the quicker you can address cardiovascular factors like high cholesterol and hypertension. Rheumatologists are eager to see anyone with psoriasis who is also experiencing joint pain, Dr. Kumar says.
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They Are Medical Detectives
Your primary care physician may send you to a rheumatologist as a last resort after no one else has figured out whats going on.
We treat lots of rare diseases as well as more common diseases that sometimes present in unusual ways that make it harder to make the diagnosis. We have to take into consideration every system of the body, not just one organ. We do lots of detective work and think about patterns in your symptoms, Dr. Marchetta says.
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Early Onset Arthritis Age Range
In regards to rheumatoid arthritis, for example, the average arthritis age of diagnosis in adults is between 30 and 50.7 Therefore, the early onset arthritis age is anything less than 30 because people of any age can actually develop this form of arthritis.
It is a common misconception that one is too young to have arthritis. But in fact, about half of arthritis patients are under the age of 65. While osteoarthritis is more closely associated with elderly adults and most people over 60 have at least some degree of osteoarthritis,8 the early onset arthritis age for this this condition is between 20 and 40.9
Other Possible Causes Of Hand Pain
Hand pain is also a sign of Dupuytrens contracture, a condition in which the tissue of the palm and fingers becomes thickened and tight, causing the fingers to curl inward. Its not clear why Dupuytrens contracture develops, though those who smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, and have seizures or diabetes are more vulnerable to developing it.
Your doctor will also consider whether your hand pain could be due to carpal tunnel syndrome, says Dr. Byram. RA can be a cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, so if we see someone who has carpal tunnel, well want to make sure they dont have RA. Carpal tunnel is a condition that occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand the median nerve is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
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These Doctors May Be Your Doctor For Life
Some specialists consult on your diagnosis and treatment plan, then send you back to your primary care doctor for most follow-up care. Not true for rheumatologists.
After making sure we have the right diagnosis, we obtain the appropriate lab work to make sure youre safe starting medication, and then see you every two to three months. Some people require less frequent follow-up, but we typically see patients more than their primary care doctors. In fact, we might become their primary care doctors, says rheumatologist Liana Fraenkel, MD, MPH, adjunct professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.
Important Considerations For People With Arthritis Of The Hip
There is no cure for arthritis. Typically, it starts gradually and worsens over time. Eventually, all forms of arthritis of the hip may permanently damage the hip joint. While osteoarthritis is more common in older people, there are forms of arthritis that affect younger people.
Fortunately, there are things that can be done to help minimize the effect of arthritis, and we are glad to discuss these option.
- 22% of the U.S. population in 2010 reported some form of arthritis
- Among adults over 65, 50% have some form of arthritis
- The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis
- Weight loss of just 11 pounds can reduce a womans risk of developing knee arthritis by 50%
- Of working age people , one-third of those who had arthritis reported it limited their ability to work
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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What Is Involved In Reviewing Your Medical History And Your Current Symptoms
When reviewing your medical history, your healthcare provider may ask the following questions:
Have you had any illnesses or injuries that may explain the pain?
Is there a family history of arthritis or other rheumatic diseases?
What medication are you currently taking?
Your healthcare provider may also ask:
What symptoms are you having? For example, pain, stiffness, difficulty with movement, or swelling.
About your pain:
What makes it worse?
What Does An Orthopedist Do
Orthopedists handle the disorders, injuries, prevention, treatment, and repair of the skeletal system and its related joints, ligaments, and muscles.
Orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons are specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of bone and joint disease. They use an array of testing modalities to aid in diagnosis and treatment.
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Spinal Arthritis: What You Need To Know
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis to affect the spine.
Arthritis can occur anywhere along the spine, but is more frequent in the lower back and neck.
Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms of spinal arthritis.
Causes of spinal arthritis are still largely unknown except for osteoarthritis, which is typically a result of wear and tear.
Spinal arthritis treatment may include pain medications, steroid injections, physical therapy and surgery in severe cases.
Care For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, affecting more than 1 million Americans. It happens when your immune system attacks the linings in your joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness, usually in your hands, wrists, feet and knees.
Studies show that people who seek treatment early, especially within six months of experiencing symptoms, are more likely to prevent joint damage and lead more active lives. Since rheumatoid arthritis can often look like other diseases, its important to get an accurate diagnosis from a rheumatologist. A subspecialty of internal medicine, rheumatology focuses on identifying and treating problems affecting joints, as well as connective and soft tissues.
During your first visit, your rheumatologist reviews your health history and conducts a physical exam to confirm your diagnosis. To rule out other potential causes of your symptoms, she or he may also conduct diagnostic tests, such as blood work, X-rays, and ultrasounds.
Sutter care centers offer a wide range of medications that can greatly improve autoimmune conditions. These include:
With all medications, your rheumatologist will provide ongoing medication management, including physical exams to check for swelling or pain, and blood tests to detect any side effects and toxicities.
Health and Wellness
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Rheumatoid Arthritis Of The Spine
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system turns on itself. It attacks synovium the lining of the joints. Although rheumatoid arthritis is more common in other joints, it can also affect the spine, specifically the cervical region . Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine is not caused by wear and tear, so its considered an inflammatory arthritis. It may cause back pain even when these joints are not in use. It tends to affect women more than men.
What To Expect At A First Visit
A routine appointment with a rheumatologist varies depending on the condition or complaint they are helping to treat. A standard appointment may include a rheumatologist:
- reviewing a persons medical and family histories as well as the results of any previous testing or laboratory work
- performing a physical exam to look for any signs of systemic inflammation
- evaluating posture, movement, and flexibility
- examining any specific joints, muscles, or bones that feel swollen, stiff, or painful
- ordering blood work or other laboratory tests, such as an X-ray or MRI scan, to provide clinical diagnosis
- making treatment recommendations, or waiting to review the lab work before recommending medications or physical therapy
- providing a clinical outlook, plans of care, and short- and long-term goals
- recommending self-management tips and home exercises
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Role Of The Primary Care Doctor
Your primary care doctor will able to make an initial assessment following a physical examination. They can order X-rays, blood tests, or any other diagnostic tests needed to support his initial assessment. Your primary care doctor can also prescribe medications to relieve pain and other arthritis symptoms.
After test results come back and enough time has passed to evaluate how you are doing on the prescribed medications, your healthcare provider may decide that they can handle your case. If not, they may decide to refer you to a specialist in arthritis diseases known as a rheumatologist.
What Are Blood Tests Used For
Your doctor may use blood tests to help:
- confirm a diagnosis: Blood tests can help diagnose some types of arthritis.
- monitor disease severity and response to treatment: Your doctor may use blood tests to determine whether your arthritis is responding to the medicines you are taking.
- check for side effects from medicines: Some side effects of medicines do not cause any obvious symptoms until significant damage has been done. Your doctor may use blood tests to check for side effects before they become major problems.
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Which Type Of Doctor Should I See For My Rheumatoid Arthritis
Most people with RA are treated by either an internist or a rheumatologist. Who you choose to be your treating physician depends on many factors:
Most people with RA are treated by either an internist or a rheumatologist.
The doctors training and experience
His or her board certification
The proximity of the physicians office to your home
Whether the physician participates in your insurance plan
The doctors reputation in the community
Your ability to build a trusting relationship with the physician
The doctors ability to speak your native language or understand your culture and customs
While many of these issues do not necessarily bear directly on a doctors knowledge or clinical abilities, patients often choose a doctor based on what is most important to them. The issue of which type of doctor a patient with RA should see for treatment has been examined in the medical literature, and differences in care and in the outcomes of patients have been noted.
Tumor necrosis factor
A protein that plays an early and major role in the rheumatic disease process.
The more intensive level of care rendered by rheumatologists may result in improved symptoms and fewer visits to the hospital for patients with RA. Not surprisingly, however, this more intensive management leads to significantly higher costs than the costs for patients who are treated by internists.
Complete Medical History For Diagnosing Psoriatic Arthritis
Your road to a psoriatic arthritis diagnosis starts with talking to your rheumatologist in order to share symptoms and identify risk factors. While symptoms like joint pain could suggest a number of conditions, in psoriatic arthritis, joint pain often has specific characteristics, including the following:
- Joint pain that gets better with use
- Joint redness and swelling
- Swelling of an entire finger or toe as opposed to just one joint, called dactylitis or sausage digits
- Morning stiffness that lasts more than 30 minutes
- Changes in the nails of your fingers or toes, such as holes, pitting, discoloration or softness, which occurs in 80 to 90 percent of PsA cases
When patients talk about these psoriatic arthritis symptoms, rheumatologists like Dr. Kumar hear a number of common concerns, such as My shoes dont fit, I feel stiff all over in the mornings, and I have trouble opening jars or door knobs.
Along with listening to your symptoms, your rheumatologist will want to hear about any possible risk factors for psoriatic arthritis. While this condition can affect patients of both genders at a range of ages, the following can increase your risk:
- Having psoriasis
- Having a family history of PsA, psoriasis, or associated conditions, including ankylosing spondylitis, Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, autoimmune uveitis, and reactive arthritis