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Our award-winning doctors treat adults with musculoskeletal and rheumatic conditions throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Knowing matters. We leverage the latest research and technology to give you an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment.
We’ll work with you to develop a customized treatment plan to alleviate symptoms and help get you back to what you love.
Rheumatic conditions affect your joints, bones, muscles and ligaments, and are usually the result of an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders can cause immune cells to attack and damage the body’s own healthy tissues. When this happens to the tissues of your joints, it causes pain, swelling and makes it harder for you to do everyday activities.
At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, our board-certified rheumatologists are here to help. Rheumatologists are doctors who are specially trained to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal and rheumatic conditions. We use the latest evidence-based testing and treatment techniques, including ultrasound-guided injections, biologics and infusion therapy, and DXA scans. We’ll help you find answers and work together to create a customized treatment plan.
With many rheumatic diseases, an early diagnosis can make it easier to treat later on. And patients who are diagnosed early may need less medication over time, so it’s important to get help as soon as you’re experiencing symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune rheumatic disease that causes swelling, stiffness and pain in your joints. Over time it can damage your joint tissues and make it hard to move and do your everyday tasks. Getting treatment early can help, and usually involves a combination of medication, exercise and lifestyle changes.
Lupus is a long-term autoimmune rheumatic disease that happens when an overactive immune system attacks healthy tissues, rather than bacteria or viruses. It can affect many different systems in your body, causing swelling and damage to joints, organs, blood cells and skin. Symptoms vary from mild to more severe, but medication, skin creams and lifestyle changes can help treat it.
Gout is a common type of arthritis that’s caused by high levels of uric acid in your blood. Urate crystals collect in one of your joints and lead to intense pain and swelling. Gout tends to happen suddenly and usually affects the joint in your big toe, but it can happen with any joint. Medications are used to treat gout, and can also help prevent future attacks.
We also treat hundreds of rheumatic conditions, including these common conditions:
- Autoimmune myopathy/myositis (inflammation of muscle tissue)
- Connective tissue disease (group of diseases affecting the body’s supporting tissues)
- Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis)
- Joint pain
- Osteoporosis (loss of bone density)
- Polymyalgia rheumatica (autoimmune disorder that causes joint inflammation, also called PMR)
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Raynaud’s disease (blood vessel disorder causing numbness)
- Scleroderma (hardening skin and connective tissue)
- Sjögren's syndrome (autoimmune disorder that causes extensive dryness and other complications)
- Spondyloarthropathy (a group of chronic joint diseases, including ankylosing spondylitis and inflammatory bowel disease arthritis)
- Vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation)
The most common symptoms for rheumatic disorders are also common symptoms of many other health conditions. For this reason, we recommend talking first to a primary care doctor. Our primary care doctors are experts at diagnosing hundreds of conditions, and they’re a great place to get started for answers. Should you need the help of a specialist, we’ll connect you with one of our rheumatologists.
The symptoms of rheumatic disorders can include:
- Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
- Joint pain and swelling
- Loss of motion in joints
- Skin rashes, swelling and redness
- Swollen glands
- Stomach pain or digestive issues
Rheumatic disorders can be challenging to diagnose as they often share the same symptoms as other conditions. Our doctors are experts at piecing together the clues to determine the source of the symptoms. We often use the following to help with collecting information and informing a diagnosis.
Tests like a comprehensive metabolic panel, urinalysis and other tests associated with inflammation and joint pain help our doctors form a diagnosis. Another common test is an Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA), which screens for the presence of large amounts of autoantibodies or ANAs in the blood. These can indicate the presence of an autoimmune rheumatic disease.
Imaging can reveal telltale signs of a rheumatic disease, like crystals in joint fluid that are signs of gout, or joint damage associated with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. We use X-ray, ultrasound, CT scans, MRI, DXA bone density scans and other imaging techniques to help form a diagnosis.
Doctors also review your health history, including any flare-ups you’ve experienced and what may have triggered them. These can give important clues about whether or not you have a rheumatic condition.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a rheumatic disease or think you might have one, know that you have a variety of treatment options. The rheumatologists at HealthPartners and Park Nicollet will create a treatment plan customized just for you.
Your treatment plan may include one or more types of medication or lifestyle changes. Common treatment options include:
- Immunosuppressants – These medications help stop your body’s immune system from attacking healthy tissues and joints.
- Corticosteroids – Often just called “steroids,” these medications help control inflammation by reducing your immune system’s activity.
- Ultrasound-guided injections – Doctors can use ultrasound to precisely guide the needle during procedures where medication is injected into a joint or tendon.
- Infusion therapy – During infusion therapy, medication is given through an IV. It can be an effective treatment for severe rheumatic conditions.
- Biologics – Made from living organisms, biologics work to stop or reduce inflammation that damages joints. Biologics can be administered in the form of a pill, injection (shot) or infusion.
- Lifestyle changes – Sometimes your doctor will recommend changes that can help lessen symptoms. These might include exercise, a healthy diet, reducing stress, physical therapy and other complementary therapies, such as pool therapy.
There are more than 100 known rheumatic health conditions. Some are fairly common, while others are very rare. Often, they share the same symptoms, like fatigue, achy muscles, swelling and redness. Rheumatologists have special training in determining if you have a rheumatic disease, and the best way to treat it.
Because no single test can be used to diagnose most rheumatic health conditions, our doctors will be able to provide a diagnosis by assessing your symptoms and using a combination of tests.
You do not need a referral to make an appointment with a rheumatologist.
If you haven’t talked to a doctor yet about your symptoms, we recommend getting started with one of our primary care doctors. They are specially trained to diagnose and treat hundreds of conditions, and are often available same day or next to help you find answers quickly.
When you schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist at a HealthPartners or Park Nicollet clinic, you can expect an in-depth consultation followed by thorough evaluation and testing. Then, we’ll create a treatment plan just for you. Your rheumatologist will work together with your primary care doctor and any other specialists you might be seeing to give you the best care possible.
Most rheumatologists don’t manage chronic pain syndrome and fibromyalgia long term, but may be involved with the initial diagnosis. For a specialist who can help with these conditions, we have doctors who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation or pain management.
We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.
Not sure what your insurance covers? Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.
Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started:
- HealthPartners: 800-883-2177
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota: 800-382-2000
- CIGNA: 800-244-6224 (insurance through work); 866-494-2111 (insurance directly or through the Exchange)
- Medica: 800-952-3455
- Medicare: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
- PreferredOne: 763-847-4477 (in the Twin Cities); 800-997-1750 (outside the metro area)
- United Healthcare: 877-842-3210