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Rheumatology is the branch of medicine that treats autoimmune (rheumatic) diseases and other conditions that cause inflammation (pain and swelling) in the bones, muscles, and joints.


Rheumatology is a specialty in medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating diseases and disorders of musculoskeletal diseases and autoimmune disorders. The musculoskeletal system provides stability to the body. It is made up bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.

An autoimmune disorder develops when your body’s own immune system attacks itself healthy cells. Autoimmune diseases affect many parts of the body including joints, muscles, red blood cells, and connective tissue. The cause of autoimmune disease is unknown.

Rheumatic conditions may be degenerative or inflammatory. Common rheumatic diseases and conditions in children include:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Lupus
  • Juvenile Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Scleroderma

Things You Need to Know

Rheumatic diseases are often characterized by pain and swelling. Some risk factors can increase your child’s chances of developing rheumatic diseases. These factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Injuries

There is no cure for most rheumatic conditions. The goal of treatment is to limit pain and inflammation so your child can continue to be active and have a normal, healthy lifestyle. Common treatment options for children with a rheumatic condition include:

  • Medicines for pain relief
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery

When to See a Specialist

Physicians who diagnose and treat rheumatic diseases in children are called pediatric rheumatologists. Your child may be referred to a pediatric rheumatologist if he or she has the following symptoms:

  • Chronic joint pain
  • Joint or muscle stiffness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fevers that don’t go away, or that come back even when your child is well

There is no one single test that confirms rheumatic diseases or conditions. If your child has any of these symptoms, a pediatric rheumatologist will first ask about your child’s medical history. Any specific tests the doctor may order will depend on the type of rheumatic problem suspected. These tests may include blood test, x-rays or other imaging tests, and urine tests. Be sure to write down any questions that you may have before your appointment.

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