Pain in the joints and muscles is a common occurrence from time to time for some people. But if this pain intensifies or persists for a long time then it is a problem. Rheumatic diseases like joint pain are hard to detect in their earlier stages. Also, the symptoms of a complex rheumatic disorder are similar to that of minor problems. This is when you should consult a rheumatologist.
A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in diseases involving joints, bones, muscles, and autoimmune conditions. You should visit a rheumatologist if -
You suspect arthritis -
There are over 90 different varieties of arthritis and rheumatologists specialize in treating them. Some of the common ones are osteoarthritis, vasculitis, gout, and scleroderma. Rheumatoid arthritis is chronic inflammatory arthritis with a prevalence of 0.5-1% in India. It is characterized by joint pain and swelling associated with morning stiffness lasting for more than 30 minutes. It generally has a slow onset - over weeks to months, though the onset can be acute also. Most common joints involved are small joints of hands and feet. Larger joints like knee and shoulder can also be involved. The incidence of RA increases with age. It is twice more common in females than in males. Early treatment is necessary to bring down the inflammation, avoid joint deformities and prevent other complications (lung, heart, vasculitis).
You have stiffness in the back - An inflammatory disease that can make the spine less flexible by fusing the vertebrae of the lower back together is Ankylosing Spondylitis. It affects the sacroiliac joints. These joints are located just above the tailbone. It causes inflammation of the spinal bones that in turn cause pain and stiffness.
You notice joint swelling -
Joint pain or swelling is the first symptom of rheumatic disorders. And if you get it diagnosed early then the chances of a complete recovery increases.
The pain shifts to a new area of the body -
Rheumatoid arthritis affects your joints resulting in swelling, heat, and pain. But other parts of the body can also be affected. If the autoimmune system of the body starts attacking your eyes or the mouth and result in inflammation then you should consult a rheumatologist immediately.
Your blood test results throw up warning signs -
The doctor might ask you to opt for a blood test if you have joint pain or swelling. Some common related blood tests are rheumatoid factor, antinuclear antibodies, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. If the results come back positive then you should schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist.
You can’t figure it out -
In some cases, there are diseases that are difficult to detect. So in such scenarios, you should consult a rheumatologist early on so that they can draw up a diagnosis plan involving blood tests and a physical examination. This will help you avoid waiting for a diagnosis. This is because the sooner you get it diagnosed, the sooner you can start your treatment.
If you still have doubts then it’s better to consult a rheumatologist. Better be safe than sorry.