What is rheumatology?
Rheumatology is that part of medicine that deals with the conservative (non surgical) treatment of the spine, bones, cartilage, joints, tendons and muscles as well as the inflammatory, autoimmune, degenerative and metabolic disorders of the musculoskeletal system, such as osteoporosis.
When should I consult with a rheumatologist?
You should see a rheumatologist if you have musculoskeletal problems that have been going on for several weeks and pain, numbness and/or stiffness of the joints hamper your movements. Thus, if you experience stiffness or pain in a joint (hip, shoulder, knee, elbow, ankle, etc.) for more than two weeks, feel pain in the spine area, or suffer from chronic lower back or backache or have limb problems and pain such as tendosynovitis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, hammer toes, bone spur, etc., you should consult a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist is sought most often with spine problems, pain in the limbs, inflammation of the joints, intervertebral disc changes and osteoporosis.
What happens during an examination?
The examination will commence with a conversation wherein you will be asked about your past medical history, previous illnesses, current complaints and your family medical history. A general examination will follow taking into account possible disorders with special attention given to the musculoskeletal system, posture disorders, muscle strength and reflexes. A neurological examination will also follow. Evaluating previous results and reports and comparing current laboratory results with previous ones all help to set up the diagnosis. The rheumatologist will also request, if needed, diagnostic imaging (ultrasound, x-ray, MRI) as well as bone density measurement. Since rheumatological problems often appear in conjunction with other disorders, the rheumatologist often consults with colleagues of other specialties.
How will I know if I am in danger of developing osteoporosis?
Unfortunately, osteoporosis is symptom free until the first bone fracture occurs. By the time symptoms, such as shrinking height, increasingly bent back, decreasing distance between the ribs and the hips, transverse folds appear on the skin and musculature, loosening of the abdominal wall that may indicate vertebral fracture, the osteoporosis has reached the advanced stage. Thus, due to the lack of symptoms, timely screening examinations, bone density measurements with the osteodensitometer are highly worthwhile for both sexes above age 50, and especially for women reaching menopausal age, even though they may be complaint free. If a person’s life style encourages bone loss, i.e., smokes, drinks alcohol regularly, consumes soft drinks rich in phosphorus, eats foods containing a high amount of preservatives and is not physically active, regular bone density measurements would be advised.
Can rheumatism be inherited?
Contrary to popular opinion, rheumatism is not a single disease but an umbrella term for certain symptoms of inflammatory disorders accompanied by musculoskeletal pain and restricted movement. These disorders or the predisposition to them are not inheritable, rather, an immune system weakened by consecutive generations of families of similar life styles of improper diet, lack of physical activity and obesity, may be the cause of the great number of occurrences in a family.