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A rheumatology clinic is a medical facility that is dedicated to the treatment of rheumatic diseases, which are diseases that affect the bones, joints, and muscles. The clinic is staffed by rheumatologists, who are internal medicine doctors who specialize in the treatment of these types of diseases. Most rheumatology clinics are sub-sections of a general hospital.
There are many different diseases that are treated in a rheumatology clinic, but the most common ones are any of the multiple forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the common forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is degeneration of the bone, usually caused by aging or overuse, and causes swelling, aches, and stiff joints in a localized area. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, a disease where the body essentially attacks itself, and causes symptoms similar to osteoarthritis. Unlike osteoarthritis arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can affect the entire body, even the organs.
Many types of patients will be treated in a rheumatology clinic, both old and young alike. There are also many other rheumatic diseases as well that are treated at the clinic in addition to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, but the treatments are all fairly similar. Most of the issues are treated with various forms of prescription medications. Medications vary and are dependent on the severity of the disease. The most commonly prescribed medications are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS); steroids, in severe cases; and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
Rheumatologists are the primary care givers in a rheumatology clinic. They are medical doctors who have received specialized training, usually about eight years including their residency. Responsibilities of the rheumatologist include diagnosing the patient, interpreting any lab results, and prescribing medication and treatment. Other than rheumatologists, there will also be other care givers, such as registered nurses who often administer the medications, and physical therapists who assist patients in joint mobility exercises. In larger clinics, there might be a department dedicated to research or an area of the clinic dedicated to a specific disease, or perhaps both.
Even though they are part of a larger hospital, most rheumatology clinics are separate entities, and operate accordingly. They often have their own laboratories, as many rheumatology patients are in constant need of things like blood tests. Besides receiving treatment at a clinic, patients may be able to participate in clinical trials that are researching new treatment methods. For patients that are not responding to medication, have little money, or simply want to assist in research, this may be a viable option.