Arthritis is a disease that's frequently associated with elderly people. Osteoarthritis can occur when the connective tissue between a person's joints begins to wear out over time, leading to the painful sensation of bone rubbing against bone. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis can affect people at early ages. Young adults can be affected by this type of arthritis since rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an overactive immune system. If you're diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, you'll be referred to a specialist called a rheumatologist. Here are four things a rheumatologist can do for you:
1. Review the available diagnostic material.
Most people are referred to a rheumatologist by their primary care physician. During your first appointment with a rheumatologist, your doctor will review your medical records, including any blood tests you've taken recently. Doctors can use blood tests to check for rheumatoid factor. People with abnormally high levels of rheumatoid factor in their blood are more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor will take your symptoms into account when making their diagnosis.
2. Take additional tests.
Your rheumatologist may require additional information to come to a diagnosis. They will likely use radiography to gather the information you need. Your rheumatologist may send you for x-rays or MRI scans. The results of these tests can show areas of joint erosion caused by arthritis. You may have to wait up to a week for the results from your test; your rheumatologist may deliver your results over the phone or ask you to schedule another appointment to discuss them.
3. Prescribe medication.
The right medication can put rheumatoid arthritis in remission. Your rheumatologist will likely prescribe DMARDs, a class of drugs used to inhibit your body's immune system, which will keep it from attacking your joints. NSAIDs and steroids may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation. Your doctor will find a medication regimen that works with the fewest number of side effects.
4. Recommend additional treatments and lifestyle changes.
Medication is an important component of arthritis management. However, medication alone may not provide sufficient relief. Making necessary lifestyle changes can also help you find pain relief. Your rheumatologist will suggest modifying your daily activities, so you can get sufficient rest. Resting your body during flare-ups will help you keep your rheumatoid arthritis in check. Your doctor may also write you a prescription for physical therapy, so you can strengthen the joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Regular low-impact exercise can help you stay pain-free.