Meet Dr. Fatemeh Ezzati
Rheumatologist and Autoimmune Disease Specialist in Dallas

Rheumatic disease includes a wide variety of medical conditions, but they all share one thing in common: They can be difficult to diagnose. Fatemeh Ezzati, M.D., uses her expertise in rheumatology and autoimmune diseases to help her patients navigate the twists and turns of these often-mysterious, frequently frustrating illnesses.

The markers for rheumatic and autoimmune illnesses often manifest over a period of time, and there may be overlap of different rheumatic conditions, which can make the diagnosis even more challenging.

“It is the nature of these diseases. It just takes a while to put together all the information: medical history, physical exam, lab tests, and imaging studies,” Dr. Ezzati says. “And it’s very normal for a patient to see a rheumatologist, have all these studies done, and still not get a definitive diagnosis; then, a few years later, more of the symptoms emerge, more pieces come together, and it becomes clear that the patient does have a certain disease.”

People with rheumatic and autoimmune illnesses often feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and distressed by the diagnostic process. And once they do get a diagnosis, they may become even more anxious about their health and the potential outcome of their illness. Dr. Ezzati says that her main goal is to help her patients understand the reality of their disease.

“In many cases, with the appropriate treatment, these diseases are manageable and my patients can go on with their lives,” she says. “They can live well.”

Advancing Care through Research

Although rheumatic illnesses can be challenging puzzles to diagnose and manage, Dr. Ezzati notes the field as a whole is evolving rapidly, with new understanding and new treatments emerging at an exciting pace.

These advances directly benefit her patients. For example, many of Dr. Ezzati’s patients have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic inflammatory disease that only two decades ago had no effective treatment. Today, a new class of medications can control symptoms of joint and skin involvement very well in many patients. These drugs, known as biologics, are made up of molecules that target the specific immune system cells that are active in the disease process. 

“We have achieved great results with these agents, and we are excited about what we’ll be able to do in the future,” she says.

Dr. Ezzati enjoys participating in clinical trials that evaluate new drugs and new strategies that may improve management of lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

“I really enjoy being in an academic environment here at UT Southwestern because I can teach, do research, and offer my patients the very latest in treatment options,” she says.

Bringing comfort and confidence back to her patients is a main driver in Dr. Ezzati’s work.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people who have been struggling with serious health problems over a long period of time,” she says. “Developing a long-term friendship with my patients is what’s most gratifying.”