Rheumatology, Auto-Immune Disorders
Rheumatology is the study of rheumatism, arthritis, and other disorders of the joints, muscles, and ligaments.
Rheumatologists are internists who receive additional years of training in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal diseases and systemic autoimmune conditions which are collectively referred to as rheumatic diseases. These conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis, gout, vasculitis and myositis.
Some of these conditions are considered diseases of our immune systems. Our immune system is a complex system made up of tissues, cells and cell products that protect our bodies from infections and other foreign toxins.
Sometimes our immune system becomes hyperactive or confused, and the result can be the development of an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are diseases in which the immune system begins to mistakenly attack and damage the organ systems of one’s own body.
Rheumatoid arthritis, as an example, is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s white blood cells begin to attack our joints in much the same way they would attack a harmful bacteria or other foreign pathogen.
When possible, it is always advisable to first consult your primary care doctor who can help determine if your problem falls within the scope of rheumatology. Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages; these diseases often change or evolve over time. Rheumatologists are specially trained to do the detective work necessary to discover the cause of your pain or other symptoms you may be experiencing. It’s important to determine a correct diagnosis early so that appropriate treatment can begin early.