What Autoimmune Disease Does a Rheumatologist Treat?

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, you may have heard of rheumatologists. But what autoimmune disease does a rheumatologist treat?

In this article, we’ll explore the role of rheumatologists in treating autoimmune diseases, including some of the most common conditions they address. Whether you’re looking for information for yourself or a loved one, read on to learn more about the vital work of rheumatologists in managing autoimmune diseases.

Education and Training for Rheumatologists: What You Need To Know

Rheumatologists are medical doctors specializing in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal diseases and autoimmune disorders, also known as rheumatic diseases. To become a rheumatologist, a doctor must undergo extensive education and training, which includes several years of medical school, residency, and fellowship.

Medical school is typically a four-year program that covers the basic sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry. During this time, aspiring rheumatologists also receive training in clinical skills, such as taking patient histories, performing physical exams, and ordering diagnostic tests. More detailed information can be found on the American College of Rheumatology’s website.


After completing medical school, doctors must complete a residency program, which typically lasts three years. During this time, they receive specialized training in internal medicine, the foundation for rheumatology. Residents also gain experience diagnosing and managing various medical conditions, including rheumatic diseases.

Following residency, aspiring rheumatologists must complete a fellowship program in rheumatology, which usually lasts two to three years. During this time, they receive in-depth training in diagnosing and treating rheumatic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, and more. They also gain experience performing joint injections, interpreting imaging studies, and managing complex cases.

In addition to their formal education and training, rheumatologists must undergo ongoing continuing medical education (CME) to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in the field. It may include attending conferences, reading medical journals, and participating in online courses and webinars, many of which can be found on the Continuing Medical Education platform.

Overall, becoming a rheumatologist requires a significant investment of time and effort. However, this specialized training is crucial to provide patients with the best care for their rheumatic diseases. By working closely with other healthcare providers and staying up-to-date on the latest research, rheumatologists can help patients manage their symptoms, prevent complications, and improve their quality of life. But what symptoms does a rheumatologist look for? And can a rheumatologist diagnose cancer? This can be understood better when you know the difference between a rheumatologist and an immunologist.

What Are the Reasons To See a Rheumatologist?

There are many reasons why someone may need to see a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists are specialists trained to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the joints, muscles, and bones.


Here are some of the most common reasons why someone may need to see a rheumatologist:

  • Joint pain: If you are experiencing joint pain, swelling, or stiffness, a rheumatologist can help determine the cause of your symptoms. They can diagnose rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, and lupus.
  • Autoimmune disorders: Rheumatologists diagnose and treat autoimmune diseases, which occur when the immune system attacks the body’s tissues. These conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and scleroderma.
  • Chronic pain: Chronic pain can be a debilitating condition that affects a person’s quality of life. Rheumatologists can help diagnose the underlying cause of chronic pain and develop a treatment plan that may include medication, physical therapy, or other interventions.
  • Osteoporosis: Rheumatologists can diagnose and treat osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weak and brittle. They can also help prevent fractures and other complications associated with osteoporosis.
  • Soft tissue rheumatism: This term refers to conditions that affect the soft tissues of the body, including tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Examples include tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. A rheumatologist can help diagnose and treat these conditions.
  • Connective tissue disorders: Connective tissue disorders are conditions that affect the tissues that support and connect organs and other structures in the body. Examples include Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Rheumatologists are experts in diagnosing and treating these conditions.
  • Vasculitis: Vasculitis is a condition in which the blood vessels become inflamed. It can lead to various symptoms, including fever, fatigue, and joint pain. Rheumatologists can diagnose and treat vasculitis, a serious condition if left untreated.

What Autoimmune Disease Does a Rheumatologist Treat?

A rheumatologist is a medical specialist who focuses on diagnosing and treating diseases that affect the body’s joints, muscles, bones, and connective tissues. Many of these diseases are autoimmune disorders, meaning the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues. Some of the autoimmune diseases that rheumatologists commonly treat include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): This is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the joints but can also affect other parts of the body, such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect many different organs and tissues in the body, including the skin, kidneys, lungs, and heart.
  • Sjögren’s syndrome: This autoimmune disorder primarily affects the salivary and lacrimal glands, leading to dry mouth and eyes.
  • Psoriatic arthritis: This is a form of arthritis that affects some people with the skin condition psoriasis, causing joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the spine, causing pain and stiffness.
  • Vasculitis is a group of autoimmune disorders that cause inflammation in the blood vessels, which can damage organs and tissues.
  • Systemic sclerosis: Also known as scleroderma, this is an autoimmune disorder that causes the hardening and thickening of the skin and internal organs.

Rheumatologists also treat other conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, such as osteoarthritis, gout, and fibromyalgia. They work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as primary care physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists, to provide comprehensive care for their patients.

Treatment for autoimmune diseases typically involves medications to control inflammation, relieve pain, and slow disease progression, as well as lifestyle changes and physical therapy to improve mobility and function. Is there a rheumatologist near me?


What Does a Rheumatologist Typically Do During the First Visit?

A rheumatologist is a medical specialist trained to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the joints, muscles, and bones. If you are seeing a rheumatologist for the first time, here’s what you can expect during your appointment:

  1. Medical History: The rheumatologist will begin by taking a detailed medical history. This will include questions about your current symptoms when they started, and how they have progressed. The doctor will also ask about any other medical conditions and medications you are taking.
  2. Physical Examination: After taking your medical history, the rheumatologist will conduct a physical examination. It will include an evaluation of your joints, muscles, and bones and reviewing your vital signs. The doctor may also perform some tests to check your range of motion, strength, and flexibility.
  3. Diagnostic Testing: Depending on your symptoms and medical history, the rheumatologist may order some diagnostic tests to help with your diagnosis. This may include blood tests to look for markers of inflammation or other conditions and imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans, to examine your joints and bones.
  4. Diagnosis and Treatment Plan: Once the rheumatologist has completed the evaluation and testing, they will use this information to diagnose. Suppose you have a rheumatic condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. In that case, the doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that may include medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes. If your symptoms are unrelated to a rheumatic condition, the doctor may refer you to another specialist for further evaluation.
  5. Education and Support: The rheumatologist will provide education and support to help you manage your condition. This may include information about the disease process, treatment options, and strategies for coping with symptoms. The doctor may also refer you to support groups or other resources to help you manage your condition.

Overall, the first visit with a rheumatologist is focused on gathering information about your symptoms and medical history, conducting a physical examination, ordering diagnostic tests, making a diagnosis, and developing a treatment plan. It is an opportunity to learn more about your condition and to receive the support you need to manage it effectively.


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