Rheumatoid Disorders Affect More Than Joints, Says Community Care Network Rheumatologist Kirk Jenkins, MD

COMHS-Kirk-Jenkins-MDMost people know about rheumatoid arthritis, a painful inflammatory condition that affects the joints. What many people don’t realize, according to Community Care Network Rheumatologist Kirk Jenkins, MD, who recently joined the staff at St. Mary Medical Center and Community Hospital, is that the same autoimmune disease that causes the arthritis can also affect other areas of the body including heart, lungs and skin.

“It’s famous for affecting the joints,” Jenkins said. “It is different from something like osteoarthritis which is more of a mechanical arthritis caused by aging. Rheumatoid arthritis is actually caused by the body breaking down the joints, also known as an autoimmune condition.”

Jenkins said many of the conditions rheumatologists help patients manage impact multiple systems in the body. That is one reason the Wisconsin native chose to pursue rheumatology. Jenkins graduated from the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine and completed his fellowship in rheumatology at University of Kentucky HealthCare.

“Rheumatology deals with the treatment and management of connective tissue diseases, inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune conditions,” Jenkins explained. “The diseases I treat affect everything: heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. So we have to be very broad in our approach and help to manage the entire patient.”

St. Mary Medical Center CEO Janice Ryba said Jenkins will play an important role in improving the quality of life for patients suffering from rheumatic disorders.

“If not promptly and properly treated, rheumatic conditions can lead to chronic pain and other debilitating symptoms for patients,” Ryba said. “Dr. Jenkins is well-qualified in his specialty, and his focus on educating patients on the management of rheumatic diseases will help them to take a proactive role in their own care.”

There are no known cures for the rheumatic conditions Jenkins treats, but he said they usually can be managed successfully over the patient’s lifetime.

“We get to establish relationships with patients that last forever,” he said. “Certain conditions we do see more in elderly patients. Lupus, for example, will affect pediatric populations, young adults and older adults. I’ve made a new diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in a 93-year-old patient and I’ve made it in 18-year olds.”

Jenkins said he joined the staff at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System because they provide him with the comprehensive set of specialty practices he needs to collaborate with to be successful while still offering a patient-centered focus.

Same-day appointments with Dr. Jenkins are available at his offices at 7835 Grand Blvd. in Hobart and at the Valparaiso Health Center, 3800 St. Mary Drive, Suite 204. Call 219-947-6713 to schedule.