Which doctors are considered gout specialists?
Gout patients will need to see a number of specialists in their lifetime. For the first time that you experience a gout attack, you may be seeing a general practitioner first. They’ll prescribe you drugs to help relieve the pain but then after that, they may have you undergo a test to find out whether you have gout.
Depending on your doctor, they may have you do any of these tests to ensure you get the right diagnosis:
Joint fluid test – This is a test where the doctor will draw fluid from the affected joint using a needle. They will then examine the fluid under a microscope to check for urate crystals.
Blood test – A blood test will measure the amount of uric acid and creatinine in your blood. This is not as accurate as other tests as some people can have elevated uric acid levels but never experience a gout attack while others have gout but don’t have high uric acid levels in their blood.
X-ray imaging – This is when your doctor will use an X-ray to determine what caused the inflammation in your joint.
Ultrasound – A musculoskeletal ultrasound is another test that can determine whether there is urate crystal build up in the affected joint.
Dual energy CT scan – The most expensive test of all is the DUAL energy CT scan. This method can spot urate crystals in the joint even if it is not inflamed.
After the initial diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe medicines to help with your gout. There are two types of gout medications: one is for treating gout attacks and the other is for preventing it. The medication for preventing gout is prescribed based on the gout patient’s situation as it can fall into two types: either their body makes too much uric acid or they cannot get rid of it efficiently.
Your doctor may then refer you to a specialist who can give you advice on how to better manage your symptoms. This specialist is called a rheumatologist. The unfortunate thing is that not enough gout patients see this specialist. Sometimes, they never see one at all in their lifetime. Only when they’ve exhausted all their treatment options are, they referred to a rheumatologist, and oftentimes, it’s already too late and gout already
As a gout patient, you should be aware with the options of specialists you can see. Sometimes, a general physician is not enough to help with your condition. A rheumatologist can get to the root cause of the problem and treat your gout more effectively. This is because they specialize in arthritis and rheumatic illnesses –and gout is a form of arthritis.
It’s been shown that gout patients who see a rheumatologist are:
- More likely to get diagnosed via a synovial fluid analysis
- More likely to detect serum urate levels
- Less likely to need NSAIDs
- More likely to receive higher doses of colchicine
- More likely to receive interarticular cortisone injections
- More likely to recommend prophylaxis with allopurinol
This means with a rheumatologist; you get a more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for your gout. The condition is already challenging to manage by itself. By receiving care from the right specialist, you save yourself a lot of pain and hassle.
In addition to a rheumatologist, you may also need to see other specialists who can help with your condition. This includes a dietitian, an orthopedist, a cardiologist, and a podiatrist. Let’s take a look at what their roles will be in your journey to managing your gout. It’s important that you are aware who these specialists are and which one to approach depending on your situation.
Dietitian – Part of reducing your gout symptoms is eliminating foods that trigger a flare. These are high purine foods which turn into uric acid in the body. To avoid this, you will need the help of a dietitian. They will craft a diet plan for you –one where you’re able to avoid high purine foods while still meeting your daily requirements for carbs, fat, and protein.
Diets can be tricky especially when you have food corporations and marketers who will literally spend millions of dollars to make sure you buy their product, regardless if it’s healthy or not. Your dietitian will also teach you how to shop smarter at the grocery, so you avoid products that disguise themselves as healthy.
Lastly, your dietitian will keep track of your progress and setbacks, making modifications along the way until you settle on a diet plan that’s more sustainable.
Orthopedist – In the rare case that your gout develops into tophi, you will need an orthopedist who will perform the task of removing those chalky nodules in your joint. They specialize in bone, joint, ligaments, tendons, and muscle disorders.
Cardiologist – Heart disease is a complication that’s associated with gout disease so it’s important to always check on your heart health. A cardiologist will check for any risk of heart disease. They will also give you tips on how to prevent heart damage.
Even if you don’t think you have a heart problem, it’s important that you see a cardiologist anyway. Health should be looked at holistically and just because you’re feeling pain in one area it doesn’t mean other parts aren’t affected. Knowing that gout increases your risk for heart disease means that you should also make this area of your health a priority.
Podiatrist – A podiatrist is someone who specializes in health conditions that affect the feet and lower legs. Like orthopedists, they too can perform surgery on your foot if necessary. Although they can help diagnose conditions like gout, they might not be able to prescribe you the medicine that you need. If they find out that you do have gout, they may refer you to a rheumatologist who can better give you a course of treatment.
What was the first specialist referred to you by your doctor? Share your thoughts in the comments below.