Rheumatologist  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotSpecialized doctors called rheumatologists diagnose and treat people with rheumatic diseases.

Some typical examples of rheumatic diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, osteoporosis and bursitis.

Arthritis is swelling, pain and loss of motion around a joint. More than 100 diseases cause arthritis and other disorders that result in stiffness and pain in the joints, muscles and bones.

dotRheumatologists do physical exams, order tests, talk with patients and look over results. They try to diagnose whether the patient is suffering from a rheumatic disease. Once a diagnosis has been made, a rheumatologist then plans treatment.

Rheumatologists don't do many surgical procedures. "We don't do surgical operations or a lot of procedures beyond aspirating a joint using a needle," says Dr. Susan Barr. She is a rheumatologist.

dotMany rheumatologists work in office settings, diagnosing and treating patients. Others may specialize in research, working in offices, universities and laboratories.

Rheumatologists keep regular office hours. They are rarely called to work in the evenings and on weekends. "We don't have the same call schedule as a surgeon," says Barr.

dotRheumatologists need to be able to perform physical exams on their patients. They must do fine procedures such as draining fluid from around a joint. "We do many, many physical exams," says Dr. Michael Maldonado. He is a rheumatologist in Pennsylvania.

At a Glance

Diagnose and treat diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis

  • Rheumatologists don't do many surgical procedures
  • They generally work regular office hours
  • Start by getting ready for medical school