Is a rheumatologist the right specialist for you? If you're not sure whether this type of doctor can meet your needs, take a look at the top reasons to see a rheumatology specialist, how to find a provider, and the best ways to prepare for your first appointment.
Why Should You See a Rheumatology Specialist?
You schedule a visit with your primary care physician (PCP) or visit the local urgent care clinic when you have a sore throat, low fever, or congestion. But when your symptoms go beyond what seems like a minor illness, you need to see a specialist.
Rheumatic diseases affect the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. These diseases are also systemic autoimmune diseases—or diseases in which your immune system attacks your body. The results of this unnecessary attack can include symptoms such as pain and inflammation in almost any area of the body.
Common rheumatic conditions include (but aren't limited to) rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, inflammatory myositis, vasculitis, gout, and dermatomyositis. If you suspect you have a rheumatic disease, have unexplained rheumatic-like symptoms, or have a family history of autoimmune disorders, you need to see a specialist for evaluation.
How Can You Find a Rheumatology Specialist?
Start with your PCP. Some insurance providers require a referral from a general doctor or PCP. Along with the referral, make sure your insurer covers the specialist. Each insurance company has a list of in-network doctors. An out-of-network specialist may cost you extra in uncovered expenses.
If your PCP gives you a few options or you want to learn more about the specialist before you schedule an appointment, ask friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, or people you know and trust for references or recommendations. Avoid general online reviews. These may not provide a truthful, full story about the provider or their services.
How Should You Prepare For Your First Appointment?
Now that you know why you should see a rheumatologist and how to find one, it's time to prepare for your first visit. Contact the office to learn more about forms you may need to complete and information they may want you to bring (such as an insurance card or photo ID). Write down any questions or concerns. Bring notes or logs of pain and symptoms (if you have them) to your visit for the specialist to review. Make a list of current medications and dosages. This should include all prescriptions, over-the-counter, and supplement/natural medications you take for any reason.
Contact a local rheumatologist for more advice.