Do you have severe or chronic pain in one or more joints? Do you battle extreme, long-term fatigue? What about widespread inflammation? If you answered yes to one or more of these conditions, it may be time to learn a little bit more about a rheumatic conditions—and no we’re not just talking about arthritis.
In fact, arthritis is just one of the many different types of rheumatic conditions, which together, affect upwards of 50 million Americans (of all ages, genders and races). And because rheumatic conditions are so wide ranging, so are their symptoms—making them tricky to diagnose.
Before you schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist, though, here are 6 things you’re probably wondering:
1. What the heck is a rheumatologist?
A rheumatologist is a doctor with a background in internal medicine or pediatrics that receives special training to effectively treat and diagnose rheumatic conditions. Their primary focus is to identify the many different types of rheumatic diseases in their earliest, most treatable stages. They also work with patients to provide sustainable, long-term care.
2. What exactly are rheumatic conditions?
Rheumatic conditions is actually just a fancy term that refers to over 150 different (musculoskeletal or autoimmune) conditions that cause inflammation. Of course, arthritis—inflammation in the joints—is one of the most well-known, but inflammation isn’t exclusive to joints. These conditions can also impact ligaments, bones, muscles, eyes, skin, nervous system—even organs.
These are some of the most common rheumatic conditions(chances are you’ve heard of one or more of these without knowing it was indeed a rheumatic condition):
3. Who is impacted by rheumatic conditions?
The people that are most affected by rheumatic conditions are as diverse as the number of different types. Unfortunately, the exact cause of many of these conditions is still unknown, but experts believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
However, there are a certain rheumatic conditions that may be more common in women or men. For instance, Gout and spondyloarthropathies are more common in men. But women are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and lupus.
4. What are the most common symptoms?
While pain may be the most notorious symptom of rheumatic conditions, there are many other everyday symptoms that you may (or may not) notice:
· Eye inflammation
· Rashes and/or sores
· Back pain
· Neck pain
· Difficulty taking deep breaths
· Chronic muscle pain
5. When should you see a rheumatologist?
This is a tricky question, especially since many of us experience some level of pain, soreness or fatigue on a regular basis—if not a daily basis. Generally, a good rule-of-thumb is to see your primary care provider if you have severe pain that persists for more than a few days.
As the health care team that knows you best, your primary care provider will be able to evaluate your symptoms in the context of your larger health history. Rheumatic conditions are very complex, so it’s important to work experienced providers who can offer the latest diagnostic and treatment options.
At the GMC Primary Care & Specialty Center-Suwanee, you have convenient, one-stop access to an extensive range of services—including Primary Care and Rheumatology—that can all be tailored to suit your unique health needs.