Getting regular checkups is key to uncovering any health problems you might have and getting them treated early. You may need to see various doctors at some point in your life. Your primary care doctor will refer you to a specialist that is best suited to help you with your condition.
Different types of doctors and what they do
Most are specialists in one field of study. Having some knowledge of the more common types of specialists will be helpful should you need their help one day.
Below is a list of some of the most commonly visited specialists.
Audiologist - This is a doctor who treats problems with hearing. These doctors also help hearing impaired children learn to communicate. An audiologist will use audiometers and other devices to test patients' hearing ability and determine the extent of any hearing loss. An audiologist can suggest hearing aids if necessary.
Allergist - This is a doctor who treats problems associated with allergies. Allergies such as, hay fever or asthma are handled by this doctor.
Anesthesiologist - This is the doctor that puts you to sleep when are having surgery or some diagnostic testing. Their physician assistant will probable administer the anesthesia. But the anesthesiologist is responsible for deciding type and amount to administer. You can expect a separate bill from this person.
Cardiologist - A cardiologist treats problems with the heart; heart diseases and cardiovascular diseases. A cardiologist may also be a surgeon.
Cardiovascular Surgeon - This doctor performs surgical and invasive procedures dealing with cardiovascular diseases. A heart by-pass surgery would be perform by this doctor.
Dermatologist - This is a doctor that treats problems related to the skin. Dermatologists are skin specialists. Visit this doctor for an exam to check your skin for signs of cancer, moles and other skin abnormalities.
Emergency Doctors - These doctors work in the Emergency Room (ER) of hospitals. They are trained to handle trauma and emergency cases such as, car accidents, heart attacks, burns, poisoning and many other critical issues.
Endocrinologist - These doctors treat problems related to the endocrine system. They treat thyroid and hormone problems.
ENT Specialist - This doctor treats problems with the ear, nose and throat, hence the abbreviation ENT. Most ENT specialists are surgeons and may specialize in one field such as sinus surgery.
Family Practitioner - This doctor is a Family Medicine doctor. This doctor may be your Primary Care Physician (PCP). A Family Practitioner is not a specialist. This is a physician who has completed a three-year residency program in Family Medicine. The physician is trained to provide primary care to patients of all ages. They are best described as generalists. They refer to specialists when the patient’s condition is outside their area of expertise.
Gastroenterologist - This doctor treats problems related to the digestive system which includes the stomach, intestines, esophagus, liver, pancreas, colon and rectum. Almost everyone sees this doctor during their life for a colonoscopy.
Gynecologist - This is a physician that specializes in women's reproductive health. The name is abbreviated GYN. GYN doctors are usually also Obstetricians, abbreviated OB. An obstetrician is a physician that cares for women during their pregnancy and just after the baby is born. They also deliver babies. Since most gynecologist are obstetricians also, the term OB/GYN is commonly used to describe this doctor. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls have their first OB/GYN visit when they're 13 to 15 years old.
Hematologist - This doctor treats problems related to the blood and its diseases of the blood.
Hepatologists - This doctor is specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases that affect the liver, gallbladder, biliary tree and pancreas.
Immunologist - This is a doctor treats problems related to the immune system.
Internists - This doctor is commonly called an Internal Medicine physician. They treat adults and specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and management of disease and chronic conditions. This is a physician that has completed a three-year residency program in Internal Medicine. Most go on to receive some specialty training. They are often the Primary Care Physician (PCP) for adults.
Neonatologist - This doctor specializes in the treatment of new-born babies, premature or critically ill babies.
Nephrologists - This doctor treats problems related to the kidney such as kidney diseases and renal problems.
Neurologist - This is a doctor that treats problems with the central nervous system. They deal with problems with the brain. They treat conditions like seizures, strokes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Neurosurgeons - These are surgeons that perform surgeries on the central and peripheral nervous system including the brain.
Obstetrician - This is a sub specialization in the gynecological field, abbreviated OB. This is a physician that cares for women during their pregnancy and just after the baby is born. They also deliver babies.
Oncologist - An oncologist is a specialist trained to diagnose and treat cancer patients with drugs, chemotherapy, radiation and where needed perform surgical procedures.
Ophthalmologist - This doctor treats problems with the eyes and various eye defects, blindness and performs different eye surgeries. Read more ...
Orthopedist - This doctor treats problems related to the bone. If you suffer from arthritis, osteoporosis and other bone related illnesses or broken bones you would see this doctor. If the doctor performs surgeries he is referred to as an Orthopedic Surgeon. These doctors tend to further specialize in one part of the body. Group practices are common with one doctor specializing in problems related to the elbow, another related to the back and perhaps another doctor related to the hands.
Osteopathic - Osteopathic doctors are not specialists. Their name will be followed by the initials DO rather than MD. They are more commonly found in general practices. They are similar to MD doctors but trained to take a more holistic approach. There is considerable contention as to whether DO doctors are as qualified as MD doctors.
Pathologists - These are specialists who study abnormalities in various human and animal cells. They might examine tissue and blood samples for diseases like cancer. They are responsible evaluating tissue samples taken during diagnostic exams like a colonoscopy. You can expect to receive a separate bill from the pathologist.
Pediatrician - A pediatrician cares for children. A pediatrician is trained to diagnose and treat a broad range of childhood illnesses from minor health problems to serious diseases. They are the doctors your child would see for vaccinations. They are trained to deal with a wide range of issue that might affect your child’s development. They usually see children from birth until age 21. A Pediatrician can be considered your child’s Primary Care Physician (PCP)
Physical Therapists - sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. They are often an important part of the rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.
Plastic Surgeon - This doctor is most often thought of as a specialist for cosmetic surgery to help change a person’s looks. This doctor also performs surgeries to repair birth defects and injuries.
Podiatrists - Podiatrists hold the title Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). There is some argument (mainly from Orthopedists) that a Podiatrist is not a medical doctor. Podiatrists emphasize that they are thoroughly and specifically trained to treat the lower legs, feet, and ankles. They also say that general medical doctors and Orthopedists may only cover the feet and ankles in just a few weeks of training while Podiatrist invests years in understanding the complexities of these parts of the body. Clearly these two specialist’s businesses overlap. You should ask your Primary Care Physician for advice on which is best for your condition.
Primary Care Physician - A Primary Care Physician (PCP) is not a specialist. This doctor perhaps the most important doctor you can choose. Your Primary Care Physician will be the one you will see the most often.
♦ Every adult should have a Primary Care Physician.
Your Primary Care Physician is the person to provide routine physicals and treat you for non-emergency illnesses like the flu. Your Primary Care Physician is the person you can feel comfortable speaking to about all your health concerns.
Your Primary Care Physician will help you manage health conditions and when necessary refer you to a specialist best suited for your situation. PCPs are usually an Internist or Family Practitioner for adults and a Pediatrician for children.
Psychiatrists - These doctors specialize in the treatment of mental illnesses such as, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety problems. Some psychiatrists specialize in mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, dementia, depression and Alzheimer's disease.
Pulmonologist - These are doctor who diagnose and treats lung conditions.
Radiologists - A doctor who specializes in use of x-rays or other imaging technologies like Cat Scans (CT Scans) in order to diagnose various illnesses. The actual taking of the x-rays may be done by a technician. The Radiologist would read the x-ray or CT scan.
• A disturbing new development, outsourcing of the reading to other countries like India has been reported. At the same time, there are an alarming number of lawsuits related to miss read x-rays and CT scans. Unfortunately, we do not get to choose our Radiologist only the testing facility. Expect a separate bill from this person.
Rheumatologists - A doctor that specializes in the treatment of arthritis and diseases that involve bones, muscles and joints.
Surgeon - A surgeon is a doctor that specializes in surgical operations and will have their own specialties such as orthopedic, ENT, brain, cardiovascular, plastic surgery, and transplant surgery to name just a few.
There also a number of surgeons that are classified as general surgeons. They perform a variety of surgeries, usually of a less complexity or specialized nature.
Urogynecologist - A urogynecologist is an OB/GYN who specializes in caring for women's urinary tract and pelvic problems. This specialist is also sometimes called a female urologist.
Urologist - Urologists are physicians who specialize in diseases of the urinary tract. They treat diseases related to the kidneys and bladder just to name a couple. They also treat conditions related to the male reproductive system such as sexual dysfunction and the prostate.
Veterinarian - Our pets are a part of our families. They need a doctor too. Veterinarians are responsible for the treatment of animals. They cannot treat humans.