Rheumatology is the medical study of rheumatic (painful or arthritic joints) diseases. A sub-specialty of internal medicine or pediatrics, rheumatology focuses on the diagnosis and therapy of clinical problems affecting bones, joints and connective and soft tissues.
With nearly 120 types of different diseases to diagnose and treat, rheumatologists must go through extensive training. This includes the required four years of medical school and three years of residency in either internal medicine or pediatrics. Rheumatologists dedicate another two or three years in fellowship training, in which the focus of their study is rheumatology.
All of Palo Alto Medical Foundation's (PAMF) rheumatologists are board certified. Many of them devote time in clinical research to help find causes and new treatments for these chronic (long-lasting) and debilitating diseases.
How does the rheumatologist work with other health care professionals?
Typically, the rheumatologist works with other physicians, sometimes acting as a consultant to advise another physician about a specific diagnosis or treatment plan.
In other situations, the rheumatologist acts as a manager, relying on the help of many skilled professionals including nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers. Teamwork is important, because musculoskeletal disorders are often chronic (long-lasting) and require planning and monitoring by health care professionals. The rheumatologist can help patients and their families cope with the changes the diseases cause in their lives.
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