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Health Care Providers: Rheumatologists

Medically reviewed by: KidsHealth Medical Experts

What Is Rheumatology?

Rheumatology (roo-muh-TOL-uh-jee) is the medical specialty that diagnoses and treats problems of the joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

What Is a Rheumatologist?

A rheumatologist (roo-muh-TOL-uh-jist) is a doctor who diagnoses and treats problems that affect joints, muscle, bones, and tendons that can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness. Many of these problems are due to autoimmune diseases (when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body and causes symptoms or damage).

Why Would Someone Need One?

Rheumatologists treat autoimmune diseases such as:

They also treat people who have:

What Is Their Training?

A rheumatologist's training typically includes:

  • 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
  • 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
  • 3 years of training in an internal medicine or pediatric residency or a combined internal medicine/pediatric residency. 
  • 2–3 years of training in an adult or pediatric rheumatology fellowship. A “fellow” is a doctor who had more specialty training after completing medical school and a residency.

Good to Know

Autoimmune disorders are usually chronic (long-lasting) and can affect many body parts. To provide the best care, rheumatologists often work with primary care physicians, immunologists, occupational therapists, neurologists, and other medical specialists.

Medically reviewed by: KidsHealth Medical Experts
Date reviewed: September 2022