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Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 05:00 AM

What is rheumatology really?

Not just an "arthritis doctor"

Rheumatologist Randall Beyl told seniors that he had one question when Marshall Medical Centers invited him to bring his practice to Marshall County. 

“I asked if there would be enough business in the area before I agreed to come here,” he told a large crowd of seniors attending a monthly Goldcare55+ luncheon. “Eight months later, we’re so busy it’s unbelievable.”

A rheumatologist evaluates and treats disease of connective tissue, which includes joints, muscles, skin, nerves and bone. The American College of Rheumatology defines it as the detection and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions. 

An autoimmune disease is an overactive or dysfunctional immune system that begins to cause disease in outlying area including joints, skin and blood vessels. 

Dr. Beyl said a rheumatologist is not an ‘arthritis doctor’ but joint pain is the number one cause for a patient being referred to him. Common types of joint pain Dr. Beyl sees includes osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. That doesn’t mean all joint pain should send you to a rheumatologist, he said. A primary care physician should be seen first and, if necessary, you will be referred to a rheumatologist. 

Another common reason patients see Dr. Beyl is for gout. Gout is a kind of arthritis that causes an attack of sudden burning pain, stiffness and swelling in a joint, usually a big toe. These attacks can happen over and over unless gout is treated.

“A red hot swollen joint is usually gout or an infection,” Dr. Beyl said. “I’ll put in a needle and pull out the liquid to make sure it is not an infection.”

One of the attendees asked about uric acid and its connection to gout. Dr. Beyl said the level of uric acid is abnormal at 6.5. The goal is to get it under six. Once a patient gets treatment, most flare-ups will stop within three to six months.

“Gout is one of my favorite diseases,” Dr. Beyl said. “I can fix gout. I can make gout go away.”

Dr. Beyl said his grandmother was overweight and in a wheelchair all his life. She asked him to become a doctor to fix her. His grandfather always had gout and that sparked an interest in him. Dr. Beyl went to school for 13 years after college to become a rheumatologist. 

First-time attendees were Charles and Sue Brock of Boaz. Sue, a 55-year employee of Marshall South, is the longest serving employee in the history of the 60-year-old hospital. Charles celebrated his birthday at the luncheon Thursday. 

Marshall Rheumatology is located in Albertville next door to the Marshall Cancer Care Center. It can be reached by calling (256)894-6700.