WellStar rheumatologists are internists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. They treat patients with a variety of chronic inflammatory diseases including those that cause arthritis and other systemic inflammation. Among those are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, gout and osteoporosis.
Typical symptoms include stiff, aching, swollen or painful joints and sometimes skin rashes. Some patients experience difficulty with activities like holding a coffee cup or fastening buttons. Patients are often referred to WellStar rheumatologists by other physicians as a result of abnormal blood and other tests.
Risk factors for inflammatory joint disease can include:
- A family history of arthritis or other inflammatory diseases
- Being a young, adult, post-partum female
- A history of smoking
Lupus has been linked with sunlight, hormones and some infections, although these associations are not proven.
The best way to prevent inflammatory disease or keep it from worsening is through healthy lifestyle habits, which your WellStar rheumatologist will discuss with you. These include:
- Exercise regularly to strengthen muscles, increase bone density and reduce wear and tear on joints.
- Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to help maintain an ideal weight. Overweight women have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knees. *
* Per Arthritis Foundation
- CT scan (computerized tomography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Diagnosing rheumatologic conditions can be complex. Wellstar rheumatologists will conduct a thorough examination and will ask detailed questions to learn about possible factors related to your lifestyle and medical history. They look for indicators known as inflammatory markers, or clues into the cause of your discomfort.
Tools and Tests
WellStar physicians use a variety of tools and tests to diagnose chronic inflammatory diseases. These may include:
- X-ray of the joints
- Blood tests
- Ultrasound and MRI
- In-office draining of a swollen joint and analyzing the extracted fluid
Some patients are surprised to learn that there are successful treatments for arthritis and related diseases; living in pain is not the only option. Early assessment, especially of lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, is key to a positive outcome and preventing long-term joint damage or deformity. WellStar physicians will prescribe the right medications, including those that fight inflammation, with the goal of reducing daily discomfort, controlling your disease and sending it into remission.
There is no single treatment or “quick fix” for rheumatologic conditions. Successful treatment can require a combination of strategies including:
- Careful review of all symptoms, test results and patient exam findings
- Creation of a patient-specific treatment plan that addresses lifestyle and other medical conditions
- Focus on patient self-help behaviors like exercise, weight control and a positive attitude
- Personalized selection and ongoing monitoring of medications
- Regular consultation (typically every three months) with your rheumatologist to assess your progress and discuss the latest treatments
People with arthritis and other chronic diseases of the joints and bones can enjoy a good quality of life by taking an active role in their ongoing care. Partnering with your WellStar physician is the key to successfully managing your condition.
Quitting smoking is an important, and challenging, part of managing rheumatologic conditions. WellStar offers smoking cessation programs that educate people about smoking risks, encourage behavior modification to help minimize smoking urges and offer numerous coping strategies. Several different methods for changing smoking behavior are explored so that individuals learn approaches that work best for them.