What is Rheumatology?
Rheumatology may be one of the least understood areas of medicine.
The use of the word “rheum” does not help. It originates from the Greek word meaning “that which flows”, and was first used in the 17th Century to refer to arthritis as a condition which flows throughout the body. The terms rheumatology and rheumatologist came into being in the 1940s, showing how young the field of rheumatology truly is.
Rheumatic conditions are very common. Nearly a third of the population has some form of arthritis, while 1 in 5 will seek help because it is so severe. Nearly two-thirds of those are under the age of 65. Despite how common rheumatic diseases are, there are less than 400 rheumatologists currently in practice in Canada, and approximately only 40 for the entire province of Alberta.
Rheumatologists see over 100 different types of diseases. We are known for seeing arthritis, and – as you visit our website – you will see there are many different types of arthritis. However, we also see many other conditions including gout, myositis, scleroderma, and vasculitis to name only a few. Most of these conditions are linked by the fact they are autoimmune diseases which cause inflammation in the body.
In the last decade, rheumatology has become a very exciting field for rheumatologists and their patients. Significant advancements have been made in the treatment of a number of our conditions, meaning patients with rheumatic diseases are experiencing less pain, less inflammation, less permanent damage and better quality of life. It is an exciting time in rheumatology and we expect even more exciting discoveries and therapies over the coming years.