Each medical specialty is designed to promote, prevent and treat conditions related to specific systems or organs of the body. This division can often be confusing for people who are not familiar with the area. Knowing the specialties and knowing when to consult with each type of doctor is important for maintaining health, in addition to preventing the patient from wasting time going to the wrong professional.
In this context, a common doubt is in relation to the rheumatologist . When to go to that professional? What diseases are treated by the rheumatologist? To help you, we prepared today’s text solving these questions and others on the topic. Follow!
What does a rheumatologist do?
The rheumatologist is the specialist in treating diseases of the musculoskeletal system that are not traumatic or tumorous, which are the responsibility of the orthopedist. The difference between these two professionals is usually people’s first doubt.
The orthopedist deals with problems related to mechanical issues of bones and joints, such as fractures, dislocations, rupture of ligaments. The rheumatologist takes care of inflammatory problems in the joints and tissues that surround them. Another difference is that orthopedics also deals with surgical issues, while rheumatology is only clinical.
To become a rheumatologist, the professional must graduate in medicine and then do medical residency in the area for 2 years.
To diagnose the diseases treated by the rheumatologist, the doctor can order different tests such as: biopsy, blood tests, ultrasound, tomography and magnetic resonance.
What diseases are treated by the rheumatologist?
The diseases treated by the rheumatologist can be divided into 2 large groups:
- autoimmune diseases: the patient’s body produces cells or antibodies that attack the person’s own joint tissues;
- metabolic-degenerative diseases: caused by the wear and tear of joint structures.
Below, we list the main diseases treated by the rheumatologist, who are within these groups.
Arthrosis, also known as osteoarthritis or osteoarthritis, is a condition resulting from the wear and tear of the cartilage that lines the joints. This wear and tear is a natural process of the body, which happens with aging. When it starts to generate symptoms, which include pain, heat and redness in the area, it is considered a disease called arthritis.
The joint wear and tear that occurs in arthrosis is called rheumatism, and it is considered that all people will have it at some level. It happens because the chondrocytes, cells of the cartilage, do not regenerate. Thus, when they are destroyed, there is no substitution.
People who subject their joints to greater efforts, such as professional athletes or after trauma, develop the condition earlier. There are also genetic factors involved. Treatment consists of using medications to control symptoms and to delay the process of wear and other measures (muscle strengthening, weight loss, acupuncture).
The osteoporosis is a disease related to the weakening of bone mass. It occurs when bone does not form properly, when bone wear is excessive, or when these two processes happen simultaneously. There is an imbalance between the amount of bone material formed and reabsorbed by the body.
This weakening increases the risk of fractures in the bones of the hip, spine, leg, among others. Problems in the structure of the spine can cause a reduction in the person’s height and chronic pain. Hip bone problems, on the other hand, can impair mobility and hinder everyday tasks.
The risk factors for the development of the disease are:
- women after menopause ;
- low calcium diet;
- advanced age;
- sedentary lifestyle.
Treatment begins with dietary adjustment and calcium and vitamin D supplementation . Some medications that prevent degeneration and stimulate bone reconstruction can be used.
The drop is a type of arthritis caused by the deposit of mono sodium urate joints. This is due to the increase in uric acid (a substance formed by the body after protein intake) in the person’s blood which, in turn, may be due to some factors:
- very high production of uric acid due to some enzyme defect, so that the kidneys cannot completely eliminate it;
- congenital absence (present at birth) of the enzymatic mechanism responsible for the elimination of uric acid;
- use of diuretic medications that can decrease renal uric acid excretion.
The first signs are swelling and severe pain in an isolated joint, usually starting at the foot. Symptoms come in fits, which can last from 3 to 10 days. Then, the person returns to live normally, and a new crisis can appear in months or years, affecting the same joint or others.
Treatment is done with drugs that reduce the concentration of uric acid in the blood, associated with changes in lifestyle (weight loss, physical exercise, reduced consumption of alcohol).
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory disease of autoimmune origin. It can be cutaneous, when it mainly affects, or just, the skin, or systemic, when it affects other internal organs. The most commonly affected are the kidneys, joints, lungs and nervous system.
When lupus is systemic, symptoms can vary widely and include: skin blemishes, joint pain, fever, generalized fatigue, morning joint stiffness, hair loss, pain when breathing, abdominal pain, numbness and tingling, among others.
The disease can occur in people of any age or sex. The causes of the problem are not exactly defined, but it is related to genetic, hormonal and environmental factors. Treatment is done using corticosteroids, immunosuppressants and anticoagulants.
Scleroderma, also known as sclerosis, is a chronic inflammatory disease of the connective tissue related to autoimmune factors. It causes the skin and other tissues to “harden”. It can be systemic, when it affects the skin and internal systems, or localized, when it affects only one region of the patient’s dermis. In the affected areas, the skin becomes thicker, brighter and darker.
The main symptoms of the disease include:
- Raynaud’s phenomenon (contraction of blood vessels in the hands and feet, so that they become very cold, with swollen, pale and purplish fingers);
- joint pain and stiffness;
- wounds on the fingertips;
- gastric, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders (related to the formation of fibrous and scar tissue in the blood vessels that irrigate these organs).
Treatment is focused on controlling inflammation with anti-inflammatory drugs, symptom relief and supportive measures, such as physical therapy and local medications.
Knowing more about rheumatology and the diseases treated by the rheumatologist is important so that patients know how to identify the problem and seek the right professional when necessary.