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OVERVIEW OF RHEUMATIC DISEASES AND THE DOCTORS WHO TREAT THEM
Several professionals may be involved in working with a patient at any one time since spondylitis symptoms are often complex and affect many aspects of a person's life. Once diagnosed, the patient can help take control of the situation by understanding what role a medical team of professionals may play in their medical care. Some people only require regular check-ups with their primary care physician and rheumatologist, while others need additional care. Either way, it is crucial for patients to let each professional know what types of treatment the other suggests -patient safety and the effectiveness of the treatment may depend on it.
Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions are among the most common chronic diseases, affecting more than 70 million U.S. adults in 2001. A whopping 60 percent of the U.S. population aged 65 years or older has arthritis, and as the average life expectancy continues to rise, the number of people within this age group with arthritic conditions is expected to double by the year 2030. Arthritic conditions are also the leading cause of disability among American adults.
The spondyloarthropathies (SpA) make up six of the more than 100 different rheumatic diseases out there. Commonly referred to as spondylitis, SpA includes ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, spondylitis of inflammatory bowel disease, undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy and juvenile spondyloarthropathy.
Spondylitis patients oftentimes need to search far and wide for doctors knowledgeable about their specific condition. Due to the variety of symptoms experienced by these patients, several professionals may be involved in working with the patient at any one time. This section provides an overview of how some of these team members help manage rheumatic disease.
Rheumatic diseases are often complex and affect many aspects of the patient's life so it makes sense that effective management requires the coordinated efforts of a group of individuals. With the patient as its central focus, the role of the multidisciplinary team is to determine how the disease and its symptoms are affecting the person's physical, psychological and social functioning.
Who Are the Team Members?
Team members may include any of the following: rheumatologist (necessary for all people with spondylitis), internist, primary care physician, orthopedic surgeon, physiatrist, nurse, advanced practice nurse, physician assistant, social worker, occupational therapist, physical therapist, dietitian, health educator, psychologist, case manager, vocational rehabilitation counselor and other health care professionals. Depending on the professional's role, that person may be involved directly with the patient in the areas of treatment, education, or research. Each team member offers unique skills that complement those of the others and together they are responsible for creating an individualized, cost-effective treatment plan.
Patients are a part of the team, too. They help identify problems, participate in the treatment plan and evaluate the results on an ongoing basis. Patients gain power and potentially achieve better outcomes if they understand their disease and the role they play in treatment.
Source: American College of Rheumatology