As we age, aches and pains are an inevitable part of life, but sometimes, they’re also the first indication of a serious medical condition, such as arthritis.
How to know the difference? When is taking an aspirin and going to bed early the best response, vs. picking up the phone and making an appointment with a specialist?
Raymond Hausch, MD, a rheumatologist who recently joined Fairview Clinics – Wyoming and Fairview Clinics – Burnsville, says patients with persistent pain in their joints shouldn’t be shy about seeking help. Arthritis is a serious disease affecting 52.5 million Americans—a number that’s certain to grow as the nation’s population skews older.
“Early diagnosis is key to the treatment of arthritis,” Dr. Hausch says. “The sooner we can start providing treatment, the better chance we have of ensuring that people with the condition can live normally.”
Among the reasons to see a rheumatologist, Dr. Hausch says:
Your joints are painful and/or swelling: This is commonly the first symptom of a rheumatic disease. If the condition can’t be explained away easily, i.e., did you engage in a particularly stressful physical activity in recent days?—make an appointment. That’s especially true if you have pain or swelling in more than one joint simultaneously.
Your joint pain seems related to other symptoms: Is the pain or swelling accompanied by morning stiffness, excessive fatigue, fever or chest pain? Are you having problems with headaches, as well? In any such case, Dr. Hausch says, pick up the phone.
You meet certain criteria: Do you have a family history of arthritis? (Certain genes are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.) Are you older than 50? Are you overweight? Does your job require repetitive bending and lifting? Any combination of these factors and your primary care physician may refer you to a rheumatologist anyway.
You have abnormal blood test results: Your primary care physician will probably refer you to a rheumatologist if a blood test indicates the presence of rheumatic diseases. Examples of these blood tests include: antinuclear antibodies (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).
Your doctor isn’t sure what’s wrong: Sometimes, arthritis isn’t easy to diagnose. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, and other, sometimes serious diseases, that can mimic the symptoms. A rheumatologist may be able to help you and your doctor wade through the battery of test results to figure it out.4
“Our array of diagnostic and treatment tools is better than ever,” Dr. Hausch says. “We have endoscopes, MRIs, ultrasound … we will find the problem, and there’s every reason to believe that we will have you feeling better.”
Feel better with Fairview Clinics
If you suspect you may be suffering from arthritis, call 855-Fairview to make an appointment with Dr. Hausch anytime.