By Annette Pinder

A rheumatologist is an internist or pediatrician with additional training in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal diseases and systemic autoimmune conditions. Known as rheumatic diseases, such diseases affect joints, muscles, and bones, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and even joint deformities. According to Nora J. Serghany, MD, a Rheumatologist with Buffalo Medical Group, autoimmune diseases are caused by inflammation that occurrs in parts of the body’s immune system where it is not needed, often affecting the eyes, skin, nervous system, and internal organs.

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, musculoskeletal conditions, and diseases treated by rheumatologists. Some of the most common are:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a disorder in which the patient’s immune system attacks normal tissues, resulting in inflammation, stiffness, pain, and possible permanent damage to joints and internal organs. In advanced cases, RA can damage the lungs, blood vessels, heart, and spine, and create an elevated risk for strokes and heart attacks.
  • Spondylarthritis is an inflammatory form of arthritis affecting the axial spine and sacroiliac joints that can cause significant pain and limited mobility. Subtypes include ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease associated arthritis.
  • Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect any of the body’s organs, including the skin, joints, kidney, brain, blood, and heart. People with lupus often experience flares and periods of remission.
  • Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in the joints due to high levels of uric acid in the blood, causing inflammation and intense pain. Our body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines — found naturally in the body.
  • Myositis is a rare disease in which the immune system chronically inflames the body’s healthy muscle tissue causing weakness and soreness.
  • Scleroderma causes systemic complications that impact different organ systems including the lungs or skin such that excessive deposits of collagen cause thickening or hardening of the skin.
  • Vasculitis causes swelling of blood vessels that causes them to thicken, narrow, weaken, or scar. Primary vasculitis can result in a variety of other diseases.
  • Osteoporosis is caused due to bone density that decreases over time.

“Rheumatic diseases can be difficult to diagnose,” says Dr. Serghany. It is important to undergo a thorough physical exam and medical history. Your rheumatologist will also want to conduct various tests to develop an individualized treatment plan that may include medication, physical or occupational therapy, or joint or tendon injections.

Nora J. Serghany, MD received her medical degree from UB Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, completed a residency in Internal Medicine from Loyola University Medical Center, and a fellowship in rheumatology from MetroHealth Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland Ohio. Dr. Serghany provides outpatient consultations using the latest technology to evaluate and diagnose rheumatic disease, including specialty ultrasound tests, capillary microscopy, and DEXA interpretation. To schedule an appointment, call 716-656-4558. Learn more at