Living with rheumatism (rheumatic disease) can be incapacitating. Some mornings it may be hard to get out of bed, go to work, spend time with your family, or enjoy the natural beauty of East Tennessee. At Rheumatology Associates of East Tennessee (a member of Summit Medical Group), we have a team of board-certified rheumatologists, practitioners, and nurses that will accurately diagnose and manage your symptoms so you can get your life back.

What is Rheumatology?

Rheumatology is a subspecialty of internal medicine that is devoted to diagnosing and treating inflammatory (rheumatic) diseases that affect joints and the connective tissue surrounding them. These diseases often result in sore, swollen, or warm joints and are almost always accompanied by pain. They commonly affect the neck, shoulders, fingers, hips, knees, and feet, which can have a profound effect on the ability to perform daily activities.

Rheumatologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and management of disorders of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissues through comprehensive patient care including patient education, rehabilitation, and drug therapy. Rheumatologists help your primary care physicians evaluate your condition, make a diagnosis, and plan a course of treatment. In many cases, your primary care physician may request a consultation with one of our rheumatologists to manage inflammatory diseases, though you would continue to follow with your primary care physician for your regular medical needs.

Common Rheumatic Conditions

Arthritis And Joint Conditions

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints that is very common. In fact, most people experience some degree of osteoarthritis later in life. Osteoarthritis results from cartilage within the joints that has deteriorated during the aging process. Any joint in the body can develop osteoarthritis, but the most common joints to develop the disease are the knees, hips, lower back, neck, and hands. Osteoarthritis symptoms include pain and stiffness from inflammation.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune disease, the body attacks its own tissues and causes inflammation. The inflammation then causes pain and stiffness, which limits the range of motion in the joints. In some people, the joints swell and become misshapen. Fever also can develop in some people with RA. RA is more serious than osteoarthritis. It affects 1 in every 100 Americans. It is more common in women than in men. The condition is believed to be genetic in many cases.

Psoriatic Arthritis is a joint condition that often accompanies psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that causes red areas to develop on the skin.

There is no cure for Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Psoriatic Arthritis, but the symptoms can usually be controlled with medication and exercise.


Osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease characterized by a decreased bone mass, which may lead to fractures. This can be age-related, by may also be related to medications, such as prednisone, thyroid disease, malnutrition, weight loss surgery, and smoking tobacco.


Bursitis is inflammation of a fluid-filled sac (or bursa) that surrounds joints and tendons. The bursa cushions muscles or tendons from the bones and decreases friction as you move. The elbows, hips, knees, and shoulders are the most common joints to develop bursitis. An injury or repetitive movement over a long period of time may cause bursitis.


Gout is an inflammatory disease characterized by recurrent flares of joint swelling and pain. The great toe is the most common area of the body affected, but any joint can be involved. Gout results from an increase in uric acid, which causes sharp crystals to form in the joints and skin. In addition to joint damage, patients may experience the formation of nodules known as tophi.

Lupus (Erythematosus)

Lupus Erythematosus is an inflammatory disease, which can be systemic or purely cutaneous. Systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common and serious form. The symptoms vary from person to person, and typically include skin rashes, sensitivity to sunlight, hair loss, oral ulcerations, fatigue, anemia, and joint swelling. In serious cases, multiple organs can be involved, such as kidney or liver damage, fluid around the heart or lungs, seizure disorders, bowel inflammation, and thyroid dysfunction.


Vasculitis is a group of disorders that can cause blood vessel damage due to inflammation. Symptoms can manifest as rashes, nervous system damage, renal failure, or lung disease. Diseases include granulomatosis with polyangiits (GPA/Wegener's), Behcet's disease, leukocytoclastic vasculitis, Churg-Strauss syndrome, Kawasaki disease, and others.

Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren's Syndrome is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by the destruction of the body's exocrine glands -- specifically the salivary and lacrimal glands. Patients experience oral and ocular dryness and may have joint pain as well. Sjogren's syndrome can be secondary to another autoimmune condition but can also occur by itself.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects the spine. This can involve other joints as well, but typically begins at the sacroiliac joints, which connect the spine to the hips. Without therapy, the spine can slowly fuse, which causes a significant reduction in a patient's range of motion.


Myositis is a group of disorders that involve muscular inflammation. Patients experience muscle weakness and may have rashes as well. Blood tests and muscle biopsies may confirm the diagnosis. Common disorders include dermatomyositis, polymyositis, and inclusion body myositis.

Systematic Sclerosis (Scleroderma)

Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma) is an autoimmune disease characterized by thickening of the skin. Other organs may be involved as well, including the lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract.

Rheumatology Associates of East Tennessee

The physicians and medical staff at Rheumatology Associates of East Tennessee (a member of Summit Medical Group) are highly trained to diagnose, and are versed in the most advanced treatments for the full range of complex rheumatic conditions, including:

Rheumatic Diseases
(Rheumatoid, Psoriatic)
Lupus Erythematosus

Multidisciplinary Services

Rheumatology Associates of East Tennessee, in conjunction with our partners at Summit Medical Group, offer a variety of services designed to effectively and efficiently diagnose, treat, and manage your rheumatic conditions. These comprehensive services include:

  • Education on rheumatologic diseases and treatments
  • Outpatient specialty care for chronic rheumatic diseases
  • Hospital consultations at our affiliated hospitals
  • Diagnostic and therapeutic intra-articular injections and aspirations
  • Therapeutic soft tissue injections
  • Digital X rays
  • DEXA Bone density testing
  • Laboratory testing
  • MRI
  • Clinical Trials
a doctor looking at an x-ray.