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Doctor Detective

There are more than 100 known rheumatic conditions—ranging from various forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, to autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and complex cases of fibromyalgia.

Because many of these conditions can be life-threatening and not easily identifiable in their early stages, it’s easy to understand why rheumatologists must be specially trained to do the “detective work” necessary to diagnose and treat their patients.

Dr. Carl M. Gauthier Jr.,
who recently joined North Oaks Multispecialty Group in Livingston, is up to the challenge. “I’ve had the opportunity and privilege of studying with some of our nation’s leading researchers and physicians in rheumatology, and I look forward to bringing the cutting-edge advancements of the field to my patients at North Oaks,” Dr. Gauthier explains. “A correct diagnosis early-on is very important because many rheumatic disorders respond best to treatment in their earliest stages.”

Some of the most common conditions treated by rheumatologists include:

Arthritis may cause permanent damage.
While it is often referred to as a single disease, arthritis describes more than 100 conditions that affect the joints and areas around them. Some of the symptoms include pain, swelling and reduced range of motion in the affected joint. Certain forms of arthritis can cause permanent damage to joints, and it is a leading cause of disability.

Fibromyalgia causes pain throughout the body.
Fibromyalgia is a common pain disorder that causes widespread pain throughout the body. Without defining medical tests, fibromyalgia is diagnosed by evaluating symptoms, such as multiple tender points in certain muscle areas, sleep disorders and even digestive problems. The disorder can be debilitating, and treatment often consists of finding the right combination of medications, physical therapy and coping skills.

Initial gout attack begins in the big toe.
Gout is part of the 100 or more arthritic conditions and one of the most painful. For many people, the first attack of gout occurs in the big toe. Gout can actually occur in other joints, such as ankles and wrists. Caused by uric acid crystals that form inside a joint, gout is a condition that can be triggered by the excessive use of alcohol, medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, medications and genetic factors. It also can be brought on by stressful events.

Lupus can affect the skin in the form of a rash.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, “lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body).” The disease comes in “flares,” periods of illness, followed by periods of remission, in which symptoms dissipate. Lupus, like fibromyalgia, is difficult to diagnose because there is no specific diagnostic test, and symptoms can mimic many other disorders.

If you are experiencing persistent musculoskeletal pain in your joints, muscles or bones, it is important to consult with a physician. For more information, contact your health care provider or North Oaks Rheumatology Clinic in Hammond at (985) 230-1835 or North Oaks Multispecialty Group in Livingston at (225) 686-4960 for an appointment with Rheumatologist Carl M. Gauthier Jr., MD.