Ankylosing Spondylitis: Why See a Specialist?

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Ankylosing spondylitis is a complex disease that affects everyone differently. That’s why all ankylosing spondylitis patients should follow unique treatment plans tailored to their specific needs. But your primary care doctor may not have all the information you need to manage your ankylosing spondylitis successfully.

That’s where specialists come in: an ankylosing spondylitis specialist, called a rheumatologist, has the right skills and insight to help you stay in control of your condition. Here’s why:

1. A rheumatologist completes extensive training in ankylosing spondylitis and is an expert in ankylosing spondylitis care.

A rheumatologist is a physician who specializes in treating diseases related to the musculoskeletal system, as well as autoimmune conditions. These illnesses impact many aspects of human health, so rheumatologists must train extensively to master this area of study. A rheumatologist will have expertise in treating ankylosing spondylitis and other musculoskeletal and autoimmune conditions.

All doctors complete a training program called a residency after they finish medical school. But rheumatologists receive considerable training beyond that. Rheumatologists spend several additional years in a fellowship, during which they train under experienced rheumatologists and focus on patients with ankylosing spondylitis and similar issues. At the end of this period, specialists are eligible to take an exam to become board-certified rheumatologists. Look for a doctor who is board certified in rheumatology and you’ll know you’re seeing an expert.

2. A rheumatologist never stops learning about ankylosing spondylitis.

To maintain their board certifications, rheumatologists must keep up with new developments in their field. They must complete continuing education and renew their licenses every few years, depending on the state in which they practice and other factors. By following these requirements, board-certified rheumatologists stay on top of new treatments and discoveries about the mechanisms involved in ankylosing spondylitis, so they can then provide their patients with insightful, informed, and up-to-date treatment plans.

3. A rheumatologist has extensive experience in treating ankylosing spondylitis.

Rheumatologists see a higher volume and concentration of patients with ankylosing spondylitis, and thus are more experienced in treating the condition successfully. Because they see lots of patients with ankylosing spondylitis, they can add real-world knowledge of the disease to their academic and clinical training. They’re able to assess how well patients respond to certain treatments, have a deeper understanding of how ankylosing spondylitis progresses over time, share insight about effectively implementing lifestyle changes, and recognize symptoms that a general practitioner may miss, among other skills.

4. A rheumatologist is a team player.

Rheumatologists work with teams of other health care providers who treat patients with ankylosing spondylitis and can connect patients with orthopedic surgeons, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, therapists, and other experts in ankylosing spondylitis management. Working with a team can help patients address all aspects of the disease and ensure success.

5. It’s easy to find the right rheumatologist for you.

There are thousands of rheumatologists in the United States, so how do you know which is the right doctor for you? By searching on, you can identify the best rheumatologist to help you manage your ankylosing spondylitis successfully.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 25
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