Rheumatologist doctor pointing at an x-ray

What Is a Rheumatologist and Why Should I See One for Psoriatic Arthritis?

Last updated: October 2019

A rheumatologist is a specialist, (a doctor who went on to receive further training) in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and autoimmune conditions, these are often referred to as rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases can affect the joints, muscles, and bones causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity.1

What conditions do rheumatologists treat?

Rheumatologists treat a variety of autoimmune conditions and musculoskeletal diseases some examples are:

When should I see a rheumatologist?

Your insurance may require you to get a referral from your primary care physician (PCP) to see a rheumatologist, so it can be important to discuss your symptoms with your PCP. Psoriatic arthritis can be difficult to identify and diagnose which makes see a rheumatologist, especially one who has experience treating people with psoriatic arthritis. Since psoriatic arthritis is a progressive disease, meaning symptoms can worsen over time if not managed and treated, it is important to see a doctor early on when you start experiencing symptoms.1

Psoriatic arthritis is a complex disease that can change over time. It may be necessary to be seen by a rheumatologist multiple times in order for a correct diagnosis and the best treatment plan for you.

What to expect at your appointment with the rheumatologist

Since psoriatic arthritis is a complex condition and can be difficult to diagnose, your rheumatologist at the first visit will gather a complete medical history and do a physical exam to look for signs and symptoms of PsA. Your doctor will ask about family history as having a family history of psoriatic disease can put you at a higher risk of developing psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis.

If you have had any prior testing by your primary care physician or another specialist, the rheumatologist will review the results of those tests. It's possible that at your initial appointment your rheumatologist will order additional tests to confirm a psoriatic arthritis diagnosis or rule out other conditions. These tests may include blood tests to examine if there are markers that indicate higher levels of inflammation in the body, or radiographic testing such as X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI, to assess for musculoskeletal abnormalities.1

The rheumatologist will take into consideration the medical history, physical exam and any test results when making their diagnosis as well as when developing a treatment plan with you.

Follow-up appointments with a rheumatologist

As you attend follow-up appointments with your rheumatologists, he/she will continue to monitor your symptoms, adjust your treatment plan as needed, discuss ways to cope with the challenges of PsA including the emotional aspects and how PsA impacts your quality of life. Some patients find it helpful to keep a journal or use an app to track symptoms and triggers that they can share back with their rheumatologist in order to personalize their treatment plan.

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