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Signs You Need To See A Rheumatologist

by Terry Wilson

A rheumatologist diagnoses and treats musculoskeletal conditions and systemic autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Rheumatologists help manage these diseases early to avoid permanent damage to your bones, muscles, and joints. However, you may not know when to book an appointment with a rheumatologist. Here are indicators that you should visit a rheumatologist.

Abnormal Blood Test Results

If you're experiencing fatigue, a butterfly-shaped rash, fever, and muscle ache, you should consider taking a blood test. There are blood tests that can indicate whether you have a rheumatic condition. They include:

  • Antinuclear antibodies (ANA). The test identifies the presence of antinuclear antibodies in the blood. Positive results for this test mean that you have an autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks your body cells. 
  • Rheumatoid factor (RF). The test identifies the presence of the rheumatoid factor, an antibody that attacks the body's healthy tissue and cells in the blood.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). The test measures the rate at which your red blood cells or erythrocytes settle at a test tube's bottom that has your blood sample. The erythrocytes usually settle slowly. Hence, if they settle faster than usual, that's a sign of inflammation that an immune disorder may cause.

If these tests come out positive, you may have conditions such as lupus, scleroderma, or RA. A rheumatologist can help you determine the exact condition you're dealing with for proper treatment.

Severe Joint Pain or Inflammation

When you experience joint pain or joint swelling, these are indicators of rheumatic disease. A rheumatologist can investigate the cause of the pain and swelling. If the diagnosis shows that you have rheumatic arthritis, your rheumatologist can start you on treatment immediately. For instance, the specialist may recommend physiotherapy and prescribe some medication for suppressing the pain and swelling.

New Symptoms

If you have RA and are experiencing new symptoms, that could mean that a new autoimmune condition is developing. For instance, pain or swelling in new areas, especially at night, are signs of gout. Therefore, see a rheumatologist for help avoiding the development of new conditions.

Unexplained Conditions

If you have joint or muscle-related pain but your primary health provider can't seem to determine the condition you're suffering from, visit a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists are skilled and can diagnose rare autoimmune diseases that are often difficult to detect. They can help you understand the conditions and create ideal treatment plans to restore your health.

Severe joint pain or swelling, new symptoms, unexplained conditions, and abnormal blood test results indicate that you need to visit a rheumatologist. Consider seeing the rheumatologist immediately when you see these indicators.