- Sjogrens Syndrome
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatology is the subspecialty field of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics devoted to the care of patients with rheumatic diseases. These diseases are often manifested, at least in part, by the symptoms of arthritis. However, there are many diseases which may have arthritis as only a part of their clinical picture (or may not have arthritis at all) that also fall under the care of the rheumatologist.
Many of the arthritis and related disorders that the rheumatologist cares for have in common the feature of autoimmunity. Each of us has an immune system that functions to protect us from infection by bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms. Our immune system recognizes these organisms as "foreign" and attacks them, clearing our body of the infection. In the rheumatic diseases, the immune system is overactive, having lost its regulatory control. Thus, instead of simply attacking bacteria or other organisms that are foreign to us, the immune system turns on its own tissues and attacks them.
In the case of arthritis, the immune system attacks the joints and the lining of the joints resulting in inflammation (redness, swelling, warmth, tenderness, decreased motion) in and around the joint. However, these diseases may be manifested in a host of other symptoms including hair loss, skin rashes, mouth ulcers, lymph node enlargement, chest or abdominal pain, dry eyes and mouth, genital ulcers, and involvement of internal organs such as lungs, kidneys, or other systems.
The rheumatologist is an Internist or Pediatrician who has spent additional years of training to diagnose and treat autoimmune disease such as arthritis. The rheumatologist serves as a consultant to other physicians in the diagnosis and management of these diseases, as well as providing accurate information to patients and their families.