The role of the rheumatologist is to diagnose (detect), treat and medically manage patients with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. These health problems affect the joints, muscles, bones and sometimes other internal organs (e.g., kidneys, lungs, blood vessels, brain). Because these diseases are often complex, they benefit from the care of an expert. Only rheumatologists are experts in this field of medicine.
The rheumatologist interacts with the patient and family, gives health information and partners with other health care providers.
The rheumatologist assesses:
• Signs (from a physical exam) and symptoms (what you see and how you feel), including systemic (whole body) involvement by a rheumatic disease
• Joint disorders
• Overall function, including physical, mental well-being and level of independence
• Results of advanced imaging and lab tests
• Treatment options
• Need for more assessment and treatment, such as
• referrals to other health care providers
• orthopedic aids (splint, brace, cane, etc.) or corrective surgery
• hospital stay
A rheumatologist aims to help patients with rheumatic disease to have the best possible quality of life. Toward this aim, rheumatologists advocate for the patient in all aspects of health care and in the community. As a group, these doctors also support laws that promote patient rights and patient-centered care.
The rheumatologist teaches the patient, family and community about health information and how to live with a chronic (long-term) rheumatic disease. Topics can include medications, coping mechanisms, techniques for preventing disability or regaining function, and ways to improve quality of life.
As a member of the health care team, rheumatologists consult with all team members. They also refer patients to and receive referrals from other care providers.