Diagnosis and Treatment of Lupus: Lupus is primarily treated by a rheumatologist, a physician who specializes in conditions affecting the joints and muscles. Most lupus patients see several different doctors over a several years before they finally get an accurate lupus diagnosis. My family doctor who finally suspected an autoimmune cause to my health problems, referred me to a rheumatologist who specialized in treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus.
Other types of doctors that treat lupus
Some people with lupus may need extra care from specialists when persistent symptoms or organ threatening lupus complications may require the involvement of specialists who are highly knowledgeable in treating specific organs and body systems, such as:
Dermatologists – cutaneous lupus, discoid lupus rashes, sun sensitivity, and some more serious lupus skin conditions
Nephrologists – various stages of kidney disease, kidney dialysis management and post-transplant care
Cardiologists – pericarditis, endocarditis, lupus valve damage, congestive heart problems secondary to lupus and extended steroid treatments
Opthamologists – annual eye exams for patients taking Plaquenil medication, treatment of cataracts from extended steroid use
Neurologists – central nervous system (CNS) lupus, neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, seizures
Gastroenterologists – lupus liver involvement, elevated liver enzymes, lupus digestive system inflammation and other symptoms
Dentists and Otolaryncologists – sjogren’s syndrome, oral and nasal ulcers
Orthopedic Surgeons, Chiropractors and Physical Therapists – rehabilitation and surgery in damaged joints and weakened connective tissues and ruptured tendons
Since nearly any system of the body can potentially be affected by lupus, or by medications used to treat lupus, nearly any type of medical specialist might become part of a lupus patient’s treatment team. Usually, rheumatologists are the primary physician involved in oversight and management of a lupus patient’s overall treatment and medications. My rheumatologist and family practice doctor work closely together to coördinate the treatment of my lupus, asthma, sleep apnea and degenerative disk disease.