In a series focusing on medical specialisms Professor Robert Moots talks about rheumatology.
Professor Moots says he would not swap career 'in a million years'
Rheumatology is the branch of medicine that concerns itself with arthritic complaints.
The word is taken from the Greek word rheum, meaning a kind of watery build-up as this was once thought to be the cause.
WHAT IS YOUR JOB?
I am a professor of rheumatology at the University of Liverpool and a consultant rheumatologist.
This means that I treat patients, but I also research new treatments.
On the treatment side we are trying to give the best treatments available today and on the research side we hope to develop even better treatments tomorrow.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON CONDITION?
The most common condition we deal with is arthritis - which has about 200 different types. The most common of these is rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
RA is a nasty form of arthritis that can affect people of any age, from toddlers to people in their 90s.
It is caused by an inflammation of the joints and is quite different to the odd ache and pain. Today we can control it very well.
I am doing research on even newer treatments, which will be able to make it even better and this is making a huge impact on many patient's lives
There are some types of arthritis we can cure, and some we can fully control. For the rest we can at least offer some help.
Being able to do this has been a development over the last few years.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON PROCEDURE?
We inject drugs directly into the joints like steroids.
We can inject these into big joints like the knees or little ones in the fingers and jaw.
These help to soothe the joints.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I think a number of things. One is trying to do 10 things at once.
Another is that there are so many people with arthritis and so few rheumatologists, so it is frustrating. I know there are so many people needing help and so few of us to help them.
Also knowing that there are new drugs available I want to use them, but for a variety of reasons - including expense - not all people can access them which is frustrating.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST SATISFYING CASE?
That has got to be the case of a girl who had RA. She
had seen several doctors and was convinced, because of her condition, that she would not be able to have children.
She came to see me because I look after some of the most difficult to treat cases. We got her much better. She got pregnant and now has a healthy baby boy.
She did not want to accept that she would never have children and thankfully we were able to help her.
WHY DID YOU CHOSE THIS SPECIALITY?
Because it is the most exciting thing that anybody can do.
And it has changed a lot over just a few years.
There is no shortage of people with arthritis. In the past we were very bad at treating it and did not understand what caused it.
Now we are understanding the causes and treating it better. That has already led to new treatments, and the work in which I am currently engaged promises to lead to still further advances.
We have come from nowhere to leading the field.
IF YOU HAD YOUR TIME AGAIN WOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR SPECIALITY?
No, not in a million years.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE DEVELOPING IN THE FUTURE?
There have been major improvements in the treatment of certain types of arthritis, such as RA.
Now I would like to see more advances in the problems of wear and tear - such as osteoarthritis.
In the future a lot of care of arthritis is going to be given in the community, but at the moment few GPs have training in this.
CV - Professor Robert Moots
1985: Graduated from St Mary's Hospital, London University
1995: Went to work at Harvard Medical School
1997 Made consultant rheumatologist at Liverpool University
2003: Made youngest full time professor of rheumatology and head of department