Have your joints been hurting for a while? Is your doctor running out of options? It?s time to see a rheumatologist. We believe that a rheumatologist should evaluate any joint pain that lasts longer than six weeks despite treatment. Why? Because they know arthritis.
With over 170 different types of arthritis it is almost impossible for a general practitioner to be up on current treatment options. Most general practitioners or internists learn about rheumatic diseases in medical school but that?s about it. They do not participate in regular continuing education programs about arthritis. On the other hand, a rheumatologist completes the normal four years of medical school and three years of training in internal medicine or pediatrics, THEN spends an additional two to three years in specialized rheumatology training. I don?t know about you, but I wouldn’t even consider having a general practitioner handle my arthritis.
Of course, there may be times when a rheumatologist isn’t needed to treat certain forms of arthritis. But there are many arthritic diseases that are systemic, difficult to manage and sometimes even life threatening. There is the risk of deformity and disability to consider. Some of the DMARDS can have significant side effects that require careful and competent monitoring. In these cases a doctor with special training in rheumatology is a must.
If we haven’t convinced you yet, listen carefully. A recent survey by the Arthritis Foundation shows that GPs and rheumatologists consider the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis successful if patients resume their daily activity and say their pain has been reduced. That?s great, but rheumatologists are three times more likely than GPs to look for complete remission as a sign of treatment success.
So take your painful joints to a rheumatologist! If the rheumatologist makes a diagnosis and feels comfortable letting your GP take over the treatment, fine. If he feels he will be better able to manage your disease, fine. In either case both physicians should be able to work together towards the goal of doing the best they can to manage your disease.