Life literally can be a pain for people with inflammatory arthritic conditions or autoimmune diseases in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells.
What these patients need is relief from these debilitating ailments so they can live a normal life. To achieve that, many turn to a rheumatologist.
Rheumatologists help patients with arthritis and rheumatic diseases live a normal life. They use the latest technology and treatment plans, such as infusion therapy, soft-tissue injections, joint aspirations (drains fluid from a joint) and injections to help patients manage their conditions.
Mercy Clinic Rheumatology – Carthage provides treatment for a full range of musculoskeletal diseases, including various forms of arthritis, rheumatic diseases such as fibromyalgia, bone conditions such as osteoporosis, neuromuscular disorders like one of several muscular dystrophies, and Lupus.
“Rheumatologists deal with a lot of diseases not handled in primary care,” Dr. Anne Winkler said of family and internal medicine. “Mercy has excellent physicians in these areas, but most of the time they don’t train in rheumatology, so they aren’t specialists in musculoskeletal diseases.”
While someone with a localized problem in a specific joint, for example, likely will seek the services of an orthopedic or other specialist, rheumatologists typically see patients with systemic conditions that affect much of the body and often are treated with medications given orally or through an IV.
“We deal with a lot of specialized medicines that are not commonly used,” she said of medications such as immune suppression drugs.
Having rheumatologists and an infusion center in Mercy Hospital Carthage provides a convenient benefit for patients, Dr. Winkler said.
“One of the advantages of having rheumatologists here is many of the drugs we order are given with an IV,” she said. “That means these patients, who need regular, ongoing treatments, can come to Mercy Carthage’s infusion center.”
Dr. Winkler indicated that about half of her patients have rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting many joints, and about a quarter have psoriatic arthritis, a form of arthritis that affects some people who have the skin condition psoriasis. Because most conditions that rheumatologists treat are chronic illnesses, they likely will see patients many times over the course of a few to several years.
“You develop a long-term relationship with many patients. If you get rheumatoid arthritis, for example, you’ll probably have it the rest of your life,” she said. “Fortunately, some of the treatments we have may put a patient in remission and eliminate medicine for many years.”
Mercy Clinic Rheumatology – Carthage has helped fill a void in the Joplin area that caused many patients to wait months for an appointment or to travel elsewhere for care, according to Dr. Winkler. The addition of Dr. Anan Afaneh, the first rheumatologist at Mercy Joplin in many years, means even more patients can be seen locally.
“When you’re having pain, swelling and can’t function, that’s a long time to wait or to be inconvenienced by traveling outside the area,” she said.
The wait to see a rheumatologist in Carthage is roughly a month, Dr. Winkler said, adding, “If somebody really needs to see us without waiting that long, we do our best to work them in.”