Rheumatology is a broad ranging branch of medicine. Many people know that it covers diseases and inflammation and damage of the joints of the body (e.g. rheumatoid and osteoarthritis) and that rheumatologists will often be involved in the treatment of back-problems, sports injuries and chronic pain.
However, it also covers diseases and inflammation of the muscles (eg polymyositis) and the "connective tissues" such as in skin and blood vessels (eg scleroderma and polyarteritis). Some of these conditions you are born with, some come on with age and some may be triggered by an infection, lifestyle or environmental causes. Many of them are "autoimmune" conditions where the body's immune system reacts against one of its own tissues (e.g. SLE or "Lupus").
Symptoms and signs will often include general tiredness and weakness, aches and pains and skin rashes.
Diagnosis of rheumatology illnesses will involve taking a detailed history of the condition, an examination and often blood tests. Sometimes CT, MRI and ultrasound scans or X-rays are performed also.
Virtually all these conditions can be treated these days. This may involve medicines, of which new ones are being tested each year, procedures such as epidurals and joint injections and therapies such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and counselling or pain management. The wide ranging nature of many of these conditions demands a holistic approach to treatment and management. Sometimes surgery is appropriate and rheumatologists work closely with specialist surgeons when this is the case.