Rheumatology is a sub-specialty in medicine that deals with inflammatory and auto-immune disorders affecting the connective tissues and joints. Doctors who specialize in rheumatology are called rheumatologists. Although there is a considerable overlap in the kind of patients who visit an orthopaedic surgeon and rheumatologist, the two specialties complement each other well. Some of the musculo-skeletal conditions managed by a rheumatologist are
- Rheumatoid ArthritisRheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue leading to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. RA affects other organs also and is more common in middle aged women. The classic symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are morning stiffness and swelling of the joints (especially hand joints) and it usually affects the same joint of both sides of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen, Diclofenac); Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs – DMARDs (Methotrexate, sulfasalazine); corticosteroids and biological therapies like white blood cell modulators, tumour necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors and interleukin-6 (IL-6) inhibitors. Surgery is indicated in the late stages
- Ankylosing SpondylitisAnkylosing spondylitis is another condition that causes inflammation in the spinal and hip joints leading to these bones to join together. Eventually this leads to stiffness and loss of mobility in the joints. The disease affects males between ages 20 and 40 more often than females. Ankylosing Spondylitis presents with joint/back pain and stiffness that is worse at night and improves with activity or exercise. Corticosteroids and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors can improve the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. Surgery is only required in the late stages to correct spinal deformities or allow hip movements.