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Autoimmune Disorders (Rheumatology)

For patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, gout, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders, Hedley Orthopaedic Institute offers aggressive treatment options that may prevent tissue damage and permanent disability while improving quality of life.

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What is a rheumatologist?

A rheumatologist is a type of internal medicine physician that treats autoimmune disorders. (An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys its own healthy tissue.) Rheumatologists must undergo three years of internal medicine practice and a two to three year-long rheumatology fellowship. This time of intensive study and experience allows rheumatologists to gain a better understanding of diseases and disorders that may affect the autoimmune system.

What conditions does a rheumatologist treat

Below, you can learn some basic information about a few of the conditions rheumatologists frequently treat at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute. At the end of each section, you can click “Learn more” for more detailed information about the disease. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis – Often referred to as ‘RA’, rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the joints (though the disease can damage any part of the body). RA tends to affect smaller joints, such as those in the hands and feet. Though rheumatoid arthritis can develop at any age, it’s more common in patients over the age of 40. It’s also more prevalent in women than in men. Symptoms may include:

  • Joints that are tender, warm, and swollen
  • Fatigue, fever, weight loss
  • Stiffness in the morning (may last for several hours)
  • Rheumatoid nodules: hard tissue lumps and bumps beneath the skin

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Osteoporosis – In a normal healthy body, bone tissue is constantly reabsorbed by the body and replaced. When new bone tissue production doesn’t keep up with bone loss, the condition is known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can occur in both men and women, but the highest risk groups are post-menopausal white and Asian women. Symptoms may include:

  • Fractured or collapsed vertebrae (causing back pain)
  • Stooped posture / loss of height
  • Being more susceptible to bone fractures
  • Sudden and severe back pain when active
  • Mild pain relief when lying down

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Systemic Lupus Erythematous – Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can damage any part of the body, including the skin, joints, and internal organs. Lupus occurs when the body’s autoimmune system attacks tissues and organs. While the cause of lupus is unknown, it is believed that certain people may have a genetic predisposition toward the disease, which can be activated by environment. Sun exposure and certain medications are believed to be possible triggers. Individuals with lupus usually experience signs and symptoms that flare up and then improve and recede. Symptoms may include:

  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the face, covering the cheeks and the bridge of the nose
  • Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
  • Skin lesions (typically worsened by sun exposure)
  • Sores inside the mouth or nose
  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon (fingers and toes that turn white or blue when under stress or exposed to cold)
  • Fatigue and fever
  • Headache, confusion, memory loss
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry eyes

Learn More

Rare Autoimmune Disorders & Other Conditions

  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Giant Cell Arteritis
  • Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (Wegener’s)
  • HCV and Rheumatic Disease
  • Inflammatory Myopathies
  • Lyme Disease
  • Osteonecrosis
  • Paget’s Disease of Bone
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Reactive Arthritis
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjögren’s Syndrome
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondyloarthritis
  • Takayasu’s Arteritis
  • Tendinitis and Bursitis
  • Vasculitis

Should you see a rheumatologist?

If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms or conditions listed above, then a rheumatologist may be able to help reduce symptoms and prevent tissue damage. Other reasons your primary care provider may refer you to a rheumatologist include:

  • You are experiencing joint pain, tenderness, or swelling, and would prefer to see a specialist other than a surgeon.
  • A DEXA scan has revealed bone thinning, indicating the onset of osteoporosis.
  • You are experiencing symptoms that your physician cannot diagnose and/or believes to be caused by an autoimmune disorder.
  • Lab test results have indicated you could have an autoimmune disorder (e.g. a positive antinuclear antibodies [ANA] test or elevated rheumatoid factor [RF] levels in the blood)

For more information about rheumatology services at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute – or to schedule an appointment, contact us.


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