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"What kind of doctor should I see for swollen elbow?"


31 year old female. My finger joints have been inflamed for months. My elbow also recently started hurting. Just finished steroid treatment (prednisone 4mg), woke up this morning and my elbow is swollen and hot. My family doc tells me only a rheumatologist can help me, but he can't see me until June! I am hurting! Is there any other kind of doc that can help me? An orthopaedist perhaps? Puffy areas are fingers, elbow, and toe. And shoulder hurts. Blood tests at family doc say negative for Rheumatoid, liver normal, diabetes negative, thyroid normal....(Also, I don't know if it is related, but I have been having sinus allergy symptoms for over 8 months with no relief)


Your symptoms sound very painful and distressing. Joint pain can be one of the most frustrating conditions to deal with as a patient since it effects every part of day-to-day life. There are many different things that can cause joint pain, but for a young woman with multiple joints that are painful and have been painful over a period of months, a rheumatologist is the best specialist to see on consultation.

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Several different autoimmune conditions can present with swollen joints, and this family of diseases is more common in women and can present at a younger age. In order to determine what is possibly going on, it will be important for a physician to take a very thorough and detailed history. He or she will also likely want to order some specific laboratory tests. It is a good idea to check the basic labs that you have already had checked, but there are many different diseases other than rheumatoid arthritis that can cause symptoms such as those you describe. The fact that your complaints seemed to respond (if only a little) to prednisone also suggest that there may be an element of autoimmune disease at work. Overall, it is probably best to wait to see a rheumatologist. Your family physician should be able to help facilitate a referral to a physician who may be able to see you more promptly. Unfortunately although orthopedists do treat joint conditions, they do not manage or treat the kinds of inflammatory conditions that your symptoms bring to mind. Given that your symptoms have become acutely worse, it is probably best to return to your family physician so he/she can examine the new joint changes and help you be seen by the appropriate specialist.

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