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Rheumatology FAQs

  • How do I get an appointment with a rheumatology doctor?

    After your primary care providers sends us your referral — complete with current lab results no less than 12 months old, chart notes and available imaging & biopsy reports — OPA will call you to schedule an appointment. Please note that due to high demand for rheumatology care, it may be months or many months before our rheumatologists can see you. We do everything we can to get new patients in as quickly as possible.

  • What things are needed for a referral?

    Lab results, chart notes, and any available imaging and biopsies. Blood work or labs is a fundamental part of rheumatology diagnostics so all patient referrals must include current results (not older than 12 months). Your primary care provider will also include a chart note which details why they feel you should be seen be a rheumatologist. Available x-ray, MRI, CT and/or biopsy reports are helpful, too. If your primary care provider has any questions about which labs or documentation are needed for your specific case, they should call our office.

  • What are signs of rheumatoid arthritis?

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and decreased range of motion in the joints. There is often swelling of joints in pairs especially the smaller joints in both hands, both wrists, etc. Generally, symptoms are worse in the mornings and get better with movement. There are other signs of RA as the disease progresses and having your primary care provider do a thorough exam is the best way to help answer any concerns you may have.

  • What is an autoimmune disease?

    Normally, our immune system protects us from harm. When a person has an autoimmune disease, our immune system mistakenly identifies our healthy tissue as being foreign and begins to attack it. Autoimmune diseases have many different signs and symptoms.

  • Are there certain conditions or diseases that you do not manage?

    Yes, fibromyalgia. Our rheumatologists can evaluate and confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia but do not treat or manage its care.

  • What is a DEXA scan?

    Also known as a “bone scan” or “densitometry screening,” a DEXA scan is a test that shows the density or strength of your bones. The report gives your health care provider insight into how much of a risk you have for broken bones in the future. The scan is similar to an x-ray and takes about 15 minutes. 

  • Why get a DEXA scan?

    People can have osteoporosis or thinning, weakening bones and not know it. There are no warning signs or symptoms prior to a person suffering a broken bone. Knowing the health of your bones is important to help prevent fractures and slow the loss of bone mass. A DEXA scan is often the first step. There is no need for referral from a primary care provider; you can call OPA directly to schedule a DEXA scan and/or a consultation with our bone health specialist.

  • Who needs to have a bone density test (DEXA)?

    Both men and women should have their bone density tested — at age 65 (women) and age 70 (men). Younger folks should be tested if they have risk factors or symptoms such as a broken bone, rheumatoid arthritis, a parent who had a broken hip or a history of smoking, heavy drinking, or long-term use of corticosteroid drugs. 

  • Where can I learn more? 

    Call the Anchorage Arthritis Foundation at 907-277-2784 or toll-free, 1-888-391-9389. Or visit these trusted sources: