Rheumatology is the treatment of musculoskeletal system medical disorders, in particular, your joints and surrounding soft tissues.

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What is rheumatology?

Rheumatology diagnoses and treats diseases that affect your muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons and can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and joint deformities.

This speciality deals with musculoskeletal, autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. Many of which run in families.

What does a rheumatologist do?

A rheumatologist will discuss your symptoms, personal and family medical history and lifestyle. They will perform a thorough physical exam and may order tests and review their results.

Diagnostic tests to find the possible cause of your rheumatology problem may include:

  • Biopsy to test for signs of autoimmune disease
  • Blood tests to check liver or kidney function
  • CT scan, MRI or ultrasound to see organs and structures
  • Bone density test (DEXA scan)
  • Chest X-ray to assess lung issues
  • Heart tests, such as an electrocardiogram
  • Electromyogram, to measure nerve and muscle functioning.
  • Endoscopy to evaluate gastrointestinal symptoms.

Your rheumatologist will diagnose your condition and develop a personalised treatment plan. This may include medications, joint and tendon injections, coping mechanisms and lifestyle management to improve your quality of life, and techniques to prevent disability or regain function. They may refer you to physiotherapy or to other specialists such as orthopaedic surgeons.

A rheumatologist will run follow-up appointments after treatment to see your progress and ensure it is working. Treatment may need tweaking and continual assessment.

Why would you see a rheumatologist?

You might see a rheumatologist if you

  • have muscle, bone, or joint pain that does not resolve
  • experience pain in more than one joint
  • have muscle pain
  • have new joint pain that is not related to a known injury
  • have joint or muscle pain with fever, fatigue, morning stiffness, rashes, or chest pain
  • have a family history of autoimmune disease, rheumatic disease or cancer
  • stop treatment and your rheumatology disease symptoms return.

You should see a rheumatologist sooner rather than later. For some rheumatology diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, early treatment can prevent permanent damage to your joints.

What conditions come under rheumatology?

Rheumatic disease refers to arthritis and other conditions that affect your joints, tendons, muscle, ligaments, and bones.

The most common rheumatic diseases include:

  • Osteoarthritis - a slow-developing degenerative joint disease that weakens your bones and makes them fragile and more likely to break.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) - a long-term inflammatory joint disease where your immune system attacks healthy cells. It causes pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints, usually in your hands, feet and wrists.

Other common rheumatic diseases include:

  • Fibromyalgia - a long-term condition that causes pain all over your body, sleep problems, fatigue, and often emotional and mental distress.
  • Gout - a common form of inflammatory arthritis that causes sudden and very painful joint pain, usually in your big toe joint.
  • Lupus - a chronic autoimmune condition where your body’s immune system attacks your tissues and organs and causes joint pain, skin rashes and tiredness.
  • Psoriatic arthritis - can cause pain, swelling and stiffness in and around your joints if you have the skin condition psoriasis.
  • Osteoporosis – when your bones become weak as they lose density often due to ageing and can result in broken bones, typically in your wrist, hip or spine.

What are the symptoms of rheumatic disease?

The symptoms of a rheumatic disease include:

  • Long-lasting pain in one or more joints
  • Warm, red, tender and swollen joint area
  • Joint stiffness for at least one hour early in the morning
  • Limited range of movement or flexibility in your affected joint or joints
  • Tiredness.

Every person may have slightly different symptoms and the different types of rheumatic disease have different symptoms.

What are the costs of rheumatology?

The costs of rheumatology vary from patient to patient. They will depend on the diagnostic tests required, your condition and the best treatment for it, whether ongoing care is required, and your Ramsay hospital of choice.

You will receive a formal quotation price after your consultation with one of our rheumatology specialists. This formal quote will be valid for 60 days.

The costs of rheumatology may be covered by medical insurance. We advise you get written confirmation from your insurance provider before your rheumatology care commences.

If you are paying for yourself, we offer a variety of payment options including interest-free finance.

What is the recovery process after rheumatology diagnostic tests or treatments?

The recovery process after rheumatology care will depend on what diagnostic tests or treatment you have.

The diagnostic tests for rheumatology tend to be day-case procedures that require no recovery afterwards.

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is often aimed at helping to manage the condition. There is therefore no recovery as such but ongoing symptom relief. You may experience some side effects of some drugs and they may take a while to take effect.

If you have osteoarthritis, lifestyle measures, medication and supportive therapies are the usual treatments to help relieve your symptoms. These don’t tend to need any recovery. If you have surgery to repair, strengthen or replace damaged joints recovery can vary depending on your age, your general fitness, the condition of your joints and muscles, your job and the type of surgery. 

Rheumatology at Ramsay Health Care

At Ramsay Health Care, our rheumatology service offers assessment, investigation, diagnosis and treatment to patients with a variety of musculoskeletal diseases. It is delivered by a multi-disciplinary team of consultant rheumatologists, specialist nurses, physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals.

Consultant rheumatologists offer convenient appointments in outpatient clinics without waiting. They have direct access to our diagnostic services and to other specialists within the hospital including our consultant orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists.

We treat a wide range of rheumatology conditions, from inflammatory arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, to osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, gout and lupus.

Whatever your rheumatic disease, we can care for you from investigation and diagnosis through to treatment and rehabilitation. We strive to provide the very best care that relieves your rheumatology symptoms.

Complimentary Patient Advice

Our expert consultants are committed to offering excellent care as soon as you need it; that's why they dedicate time to offer complimentary advice, with no obligation, so you can be sure before making a decision. Hear and speak to a Consultant within the speciality of your choice; get the information you need and all your questions answered to help you make a decision on your next steps in your healthcare journey.

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