Fork - PWThe American College of Rheumatology’s Simple Tasks campaign is designed to educate lawmakers, administration officials, think tanks, advocacy groups, physicians and physician groups about the value of rheumatology.

Common Symptoms and Rheumatology

Common symptoms caused by rheumatic diseases—such as skin rashes, joint swelling and back pain—were recently reported as the top reasons for visiting a healthcare provider. Moreover, patients with rheumatic diseases are more likely to be diagnosed and receive care from a primary care physician.

In fact, when treating gout patients, one study found that primary care doctors treated 70% of gout sufferers. While rheumatologists, specialists trained to treat gout and other inflammatory diseases, saw fewer than 2% of all gout patient office visits.

Team Approach Benefits Millions (Primary Care Physicians Included)

More than 7 million Americans suffer from inflammatory rheumatic diseases such as gout, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, and these patients have a short window of opportunity to receive treatment that can diminish long-term complications.  The window of opportunity is defined as the first 12 weeks of the onset of symptoms.

In the early half of the twentieth century, a patient with joint pain, swelling and stiffness was typically prescribed aspirin and advised to rest. However, this remedy wasn’t enough to control painful inflammation and many patients during this period experienced physical deformity that twisted and crippled affected limbs. Today, a person with a rheumatic disease under the care of both a primary care physician and rheumatologist can expect control of inflammation, reduced disease activity, diminished pain, and marked reduction in joint damage. Furthermore, many patients treated early and aggressively can experience remission or the subsiding of all symptoms.

Primary care physicians can increase office efficiency by applying the team approach to treating patients with rheumatic diseases. By collaborating with rheumatologists, primary care physicians can save time by reducing office visits, screening tests and preventive recommendations. Additionally, early and appropriate referrals to a rheumatologist can result in many patient benefits, including reduced medical costs and tests.

Rheumatology Referral Top Ten

Signs of a rheumatic disease can be symptomatic of different disorders and can be difficult to identify. To help recognize rheumatic symptoms and prioritize referrals, the American College of Rheumatology’s Simple Tasks campaign suggests watching out for these top 10 signs:

1.  Presence of swelling in the joints, especially multiple joints
2.  Weakness, such as new onset difficulty rising from a chair, along with elevated ESR and creatine kinase
3.  New blue or white color changes in the fingers and toes, particularly with ulcers
4.  New headaches, with our without visual disturbance, and an elevated ESR
5.  New fixed swelling and tightness of the skin of the hands and feet
6.  New butterfly rash and joint pain (or fevers)
7.  Elevated ESR with joint pain, swelling, fevers, rash, or weakness
8.  Sudden wrist or foot drop, with fevers and rash
9.  Morning stiffness lasting more than 45 minutes
10. Back pain that is worse in the morning, better with activity

Help ensure patients with rheumatic diseases don’t miss the window of opportunity for collaborative care. The American College of Rheumatology’s Simple Tasks campaign has prepared many useful resources that can be found at For additional information about the Simple Tasks campaign or comments, contact