Rheumatology is the branch of medicine specialised in disorders and diseases of the locomotor system, i.e. the bones, muscles, tendons, articulations and ligaments. This speciality covers almost 200 illnesses. In fact, rheumatism is second highest cause of primary health care consultation, behind acute respiratory infections.
What is rheumatology and what is a rheumatologist?
Rheumatology is the medical specialty concerned with rheumatic conditions which can affect the bones, joints and muscles. Hence, a rheumatologist is a medical specialist who diagnoses, treats and manages rheumatic diseases. Arthritis and rheumatology are often thought of together which is because arthritis is one of the most well-known conditions treated by this medical specialty. Paediatric rheumatology is a sub-specialty of rheumatology. Other rheumatology sub-specialties include metabolic bone disease, neurophysiology, sports medicine and autoimmune multi-system connective tissue diseases.
What does a rheumatologist do?
Rheumatologists are medical physicians who diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions and autoimmune diseases. Due to the wide-ranging nature of rheumatoid conditions, rheumatology is a multidisciplinary field that works closely with other medical specialists. The British Society of Rheumatology divides rheumatic diseases into the following domains:
Inflammatory arthritis or disease (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis)
In a rheumatology appointment, the rheumatologist will perform a thorough physical examination in which they will check for signs of inflammation, apply pressure to your joints to check for any pain or soreness, and check your overall health. You may also be asked to stretch your joints and muscles. A rheumatologist will also ask a lot of questions about your symptoms and the history of those symptoms, so it can be a good idea to bring a few notes on these before your appointment. Other tests include blood and urine tests and imaging tests (e.g. X-ray, MRI scan, ultrasounds and a DEXA scan).
How can I make an appointment with a rheumatologist?
There are several ways to make an appointment with a rheumatologist. You may receive a rheumatology referral, or you might make an appointment directly. Top Doctors can help to find a ‘rheumatologist near me’, providing information on the right private rheumatologist or rheumatology clinic for you. Most major hospitals will have a rheumatology department with several rheumatology consultants, however, there are also dedicated centres in the UK that specialise in the diagnosis and treatment or rheumatic conditions. For example, the London Rheumatology Centre and the Chelsea Rheumatology Clinic are both leading institutes for treating rheumatological conditions.