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What is rheumatology?

What is rheumatology?

Rheumatology is a multidisciplinary branch of medicine that deals with the investigation, diagnosis and management of patients with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. This incorporates over 200 disorders affecting joints, bones, muscles and soft tissues, including inflammatory arthritis and other systemic autoimmune disorders, vasculitis, soft tissue conditions, spinal pain and metabolic bone disease. A significant number of musculoskeletal conditions also affect other organ systems.

The term ''rheumatology'' originates from the Greek word ''rheuma'', meaning "that which flows as a river or stream," and the suffix ''-ology'', meaning "the study of." Rheumatology is a rapidly evolving medical specialty, with advancements owing largely to new scientific discoveries about the immunology of these disorders.

Because the characteristics of rheumatological disorders are best explained by immunology, the pathogenesis of every major rheumatological disorder is now described in terms of the autoimmune system, viz., as an autoimmune disease. Correspondingly, most new treatment modalities are also based on clinical research in immunology and the resulting improved understanding of the genetic bases of rheumatological disorders.

The British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Registers (BSRBR) is a project which runs two registers of patients receiving biological treatments: the BSR Rheumatoid Arthritis Register and the BSR Ankylosing Spondylitis Register. These registers monitor the long-term safety of the biologics drugs and provide us with valuable information about their effects in long-term use.