A rheumatologist is an internist (a specialist in internal medicine) or a paediatrician who receives additional training in diagnosing and treating arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases. (See Reference 1) Since most symptoms of rheumatological disorders are related to immunology, these disorders are known as autoimmune diseases. (See Reference 2). A neurologist can treat hundreds of diseases ranging from arthritis to back pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis involves chronic and painful swelling in the lining of the joints, which eventually leads to bone erosion and joint deformity. The Mayo Clinic website also lists rheumatoid nodules under the skin in arms, tender joints, fevers and fatigue as symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The disease typically affects the small joints of hands and feet on both sides of the body. (See Reference 3) Patients may experience alternating periods of severe discomfort and remission.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It can affect any joint in the body but occurs most commonly in the neck, hand, hips, lower back and knees. (See Reference 4). This is a degenerative disease which cannot be cured. Symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness in joints and a sensation of stiffness in joints after long periods of inactivity or when awakening. As the disease progresses, joints lose flexibility.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition causing pain in muscles, tendons and ligaments all over the body. Patients may feel exhausted all the time and develop points on their bodies where even slight pressure hurts. Although physical or emotional trauma are sometimes blamed for the condition, fibromyalgia can often be triggered for no apparent reason. The Mayo Clinic also associates depression, osteoarthritis, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and restless legs syndrome with fibromyalgia.
The Hospital for Special Surgery located in New York City lists other diseases a rheumatologist can treat: gout, myositis, tendinitis, lupus, scleroderma, osteoporosis and vasculitis. (See Reference 5)
Occasional pain in the joints that goes away with simple medication may not be a cause of worry. However, symptoms of certain rheumatological diseases cannot be detected in early stages. (See Reference 5) See a rheumatologist for excruciating or recurring pain in the joints or any other part of the musculoskeletal system.