To seek clinical care for your lupus symptoms, a first step may be seeing your primary care provider or a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating inflammatory diseases that affect the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons—including lupus. In addition to directly treating your symptoms, these doctors may refer you to other resources or health care professionals. You may want to consider working with the following clinicians as part of your broader health care team:
- Dermatologist: A dermatologist is a doctor who has specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders that impact the skin, hair, and nails. A dermatologist is a great doctor to see for help with managing lupus symptoms like rashes or hair loss.
- Nephrologist: A nephrologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases that impact the kidneys. People who have advanced lupus symptoms or have Lupus nephritis would benefit from seeing a nephrologist to treat kidney problems.
- Nutritionist: A nutritionist is a person who has completed advanced training in nutrition. They can work with Lupus patients to create a diet to help manage lupus symptoms.
- Hematologist: A hematologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases that impact the blood and blood components. This doctor may be useful for lupus patients who also have blood diseases, like anemia.
- Neurologist: A neurologist is a medical doctor that specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases that impact the brain and spinal cord. In some cases, lupus can cause headaches, dizziness, vision problems, or brain fog. If these symptoms continue to worsen it may be useful to see a neurologist.
- Gynecologist: A gynecologist is a medical doctor that specializes in treatment and diagnosis of diseases that impact the female reproductive anatomy (cervix, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and vagina). Lupus patients with a female reproductive system should maintain regular appointments with a gynecologist as lupus patients are more likely to have cervical cancer. A gynecologist could also counsel a lupus patient on their sex life, fertility, and options for birth control.
- Urologist: A urologist is a medical doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders that impact the urinary system. In some cases, lupus can cause bladder issues where seeing a urologist would be beneficial.
- Gastrologist: A gastrologist is a medical doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders that impact the digestive tract and accessory organs (esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, gallbladder, liver, bile ducts, and pancreas). Some of the medications for lupus may have side effects that negatively impact the digestive system, causing nausea, stomach pain, indigestion, etc. Additionally, lupus patients may have another chronic disease the impacts the digestive system.
- Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders that impact the eyes. In some cases, lupus medications may impact eyesight which would need to be attended to by an ophthalmologist.
- Pharmacists: A pharmacist is someone who has received advanced training in the preparation and provision of medical drugs. Lupus patients can talk to pharmacists about the medications they are using to get more information on their impact and assistance with adjusting dosage.
- Social Worker: A medical social worker helps you understand hospital procedures and medical plans, as well as helping you and your family with financial planning. The social worker will also facilitate communication between you, your family, and the healthcare team.
- Patient Advocate: A patient advocate will help you with many steps of receiving care, such as finding the right doctors and choosing the best treatments. Medical billing advocates help you to understand your bills, contest inaccurate billing and negotiate for costs to be lowered.
- Case Manager: Case managers oversee everything that happens from the moment of admission, during treatment and up to discharge from a hospital or another healthcare facility. These professionals provide guidance for long-term care, which includes decision-making about any important treatment options.
- At-Home Care: There are other healthcare resources that can be utilized in the comfort of your own home. For example, you can hire a caregiver or a nurse. Caregivers do not perform medical care, instead, they help with activities of daily living and provide companionship for their clients. Nurses are licensed to perform skilled care. Nurses are usually in charge of implementing specific instructions set forth by a doctor. Nurses also monitor the progress of a patient as they recover from serious illness or injury.
Mental Health Resources:
- Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in mental health. They can prescribe medications and may provide counseling. If you are experiencing debilitating mental health symptoms that are interfering with your daily life, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.
- Group therapy: This is a type of therapy where a group of patients meet to discuss their mental health or other topics under the supervision of a therapist. Group therapy is an affordable and effective alternative or supplement to individual therapy. Some groups are geared toward specific issues, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse or obesity, while others focus on helping people deal with a variety of issues such as anger or low self-esteem.
- Counselor: Counselors offer guidance to individuals, couples, families, and groups who are dealing with issues that affect their mental health and well-being. They work with clients on strategies to overcome obstacles and personal challenges that they are facing.
- Psychologist: Practicing psychologists have the professional training and clinical skills to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues and mental health problems. People may see a psychologist because they are depressed, angry, or anxious for a long time. Or they want help for a chronic condition that is interfering with their lives or physical health.
- Occupational Therapist: Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. Patients typically see an occupational therapist to regain function in their daily life, help manage chronic pain symptoms, and prevent future injury.
- Physical Therapist: Physical therapists help injured, or ill people improve movement and manage pain. They use exercises, stretching maneuvers, hands-on therapy, and equipment to ease patients’ pain, help them increase their mobility, prevent further pain or injury, and facilitate health and wellness.
- Respiratory Therapist: Respiratory therapists help improve outcomes for people with asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, lung trauma, and other diagnoses. They assess your breathing, recommend exercises, and monitor your progress.
- Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP): SLPs can treat speech and cognitive-communication, as well as other disorders. Speech disorders occur when a person has difficulty producing speech sounds correctly or fluently (e.g., stuttering is a form of disfluency) or has problems with his or her voice or resonance. Cognitive-communication disorders include problems organizing thoughts, paying attention, remembering, planning, and/or problem-solving. If you are experiencing these symptoms, a speech-language pathologist may be helpful for you.
- Chiropractor: Chiropractors seek to reduce pain and improve the functionality of patients as well as to educate them on how they can account for their own health via exercise, ergonomics, and other therapies. They use a variety of non-surgical treatments, such as spinal manipulation and mobilization, to treat patients with chronic pain. If you have a condition known as vasculitis or severe arthritis of your joints or spine, ask your doctor before having manipulation performed to ensure it is safe.