Physicians: A Brief Overview of Their Various Specialties.

With the many specialized and sub-specialized physicians in the healthcare industry, it's often difficult to know what type of doctor you may need. Often times your primary care doctor makes these referrals and recommendations for you, but it helps the patient to know exactly what type of doctor they are being referred to and what they specialize in. This article will hopefully explain some of the differences in the various branches of medicine to help you feel better informed.

Sub-specialization within the different areas of medicine is increasing. Briefly, these areas include Cardiac, Thoracic, Neurology, Plastic Surgery, Obstetrics, and Orthopedics.


General Practitioners and Family Practice: These physicians are typically the first point of contact for patients and act as the traditional family doctor. They diagnose and treat a wide range of health conditions, illnesses, and minor injuries ranging from sinus and respiratory infections to broken bones and scrapes. Patients requiring more in-depth care on a specialized basis are referred to specialists or other health care facilities for further diagnosis and treatment.

Internal Medicine: General internists diagnose diseases and injuries of the internal organs for which they provide nonsurgical treatment. Their typical patients are adults with a wide range of problems associated with the internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys, stomach, and digestive tract. They are commonly considered primary care physicians as well. Like general practitioners and family physicians, they will refer patients who require more specialized care.

Pediatrician: These physicians are considered the primary care provider for newborns and children up to the age of 18. They perform physicals on a regular basis depending on the child's age to assess growth and development and provide immunizations at regular intervals. They also diagnose and treat childhood illnesses, diseases, and minor injuries. Like the adult's primary care provider, the pediatrician often refers their patients who need more specialized care.

OB/GYN: Another branch of primary care providers, these specialists focus on women's health issues. They are responsible for their general medical care as well as that related to pregnancy and the reproductive system. Like general practitioners, the OB/GYN is concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of general health problems, but their primary focus is that related to the female body, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, hormonal disorders, and urinary tract. An OB/GYN also specializes in childbirth, following women throughout their pregnancy, providing prenatal diagnoses, delivery, and postpartum care. OB/GYNs are responsible for mother and fetus during pregnancy. Sub-specialties in this group includes Maternal-fetal Medicine, Gynecologic Oncology, Gynecologic Urology, and Reproductive Medicine.


Allergist-Immunologist: This doctor will assess, diagnose, and manage disorders involving the immune system. Some of these conditions might include eczema, asthma, rhinitis, eczema, and adverse reactions to drugs, foods and insect stings. They also evaluate for malignancies of the immune system, immunodeficiency disease, and problems related to autoimmune disease and with organ transplantation.

Anesthesiologist: The anesthesiologist focuses primarily on the care of surgical patients and pain relief. Like other physicians, they evaluate and treat patients. An anesthesiologist confers with other physicians and surgeons on appropriate treatments and procedures before, during, and after surgery. These critical care specialists are responsible for maintenance of the patient’s vital life functions (body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing) through continuous monitoring during surgery. For other patients who suffer from chronic pain, they use techniques such as epidurals, spinals and other nerve blocks to help with pain relief.

Cardiologist: Specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Sub-Specialized Heart Doctors Electrophysiologist (EP) or Heart Rhythm Specialist – a cardiologist with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm problems. Echocardiologist – performs cardiovascular examinations using echocardiograms to produce a picture of a heart and great vessels using high-frequency sound waves. Heart Failure Specialist – a cardiologist who focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure. This specialty continues to grow steadily to meet the needs of elderly patient in which heart failure is most common.

Cardiothoracic Surgeon: Diagnose and manage surgical conditions of the heart, lungs and esophagus. A small aspect of this specialty includes the transplantation of both heart and lungs.

Dermatologist: Treats problems of the skin, hair, and nails. These include acne, psoriasis, and alopecia.

Endocrinologist: This type of physician treats glandular and hormonal problems, including diabetes and thyroid disease.

Gastroenterologist: These physicians treat problems with the digestive system, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Hematologist: A hematologist treats diseases that affect the blood, such as the various types of anemia.

Nephrologist: A physician who specializes in kidney disease such as glomerulonephritis and inflamed kidneys associated with lupus.

Neurologist: Physician who treats the entire nervous system. Diseases in this category include myasthenia gravis and multiple sclerosis.

Neurosurgeon: Deals with the diagnosis and treatment of pathological processes affecting the brain, skull, spine, and nervous system, including surgical and non-surgical management and rehabilitation.

Oncologist: Oncologists are doctors that study, diagnose, and treat cancerous growths and tumors.

Ophthalmologist: Ophthalmologists provide comprehensive vision and eye care. They diagnose, monitor, and medically or surgically treat all eye and visual disorders. They prescribe vision services for corrective eyewear.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: Deals with a variety of conditions associated with the mouth, jaws, face and neck. The treat facial anomalies including cleft lip and palate, facial trauma, and perform surgery required in the management of orofacial malignancy.

Orthopaedics: This branch of medicine deals with prevention and/or correction of injuries and disorders of the skeletal system and associated joints, muscles, and ligaments.

Otorhinolaryngologist (or ENT …ears, nose, and throat specialist): These physicians deal with disease and illness of the head and neck. An ENT helps in the diagnosis and treatment of breathing problems; sinus, throat, and ear infections; hearing loss; and the loss of faculties in the elderly.

Pathologist: Specialize in the detection of disease through the use of a variety of investigative techniques. Their work can be vital in finding an accurate and early diagnosis and improving the prospects for treatment. They also play an important role in identifying sources of disease and reducing the possible risks of further spread.

Cosmetic/Plastic Surgery: This branch covers a wide field of reconstructive and reparative surgeries, and replacement of physical defects of form or function involving the skin, musculoskeletal system, head and facial structures, hands, extremities, trunk, and breasts.

Radiation Oncologist: This doctor specializes in the use of radiation to treat cancers. They use radiation therapy and other treatments to cure cancer, to control the growth of tumors, or to relieve pain and other symptoms.

Radiologist: Specialize in the detection of disease through the use of a variety of investigative techniques. Their work can be vital in finding an accurate and early diagnosis, improving the prospects for treatment, and is fundamental to the management of cancer care. They also play an important role in identifying sources of disease and reducing the possible risks of further spread.

Rheumatologist: A physician who treats arthritis and other rheumatic diseases such as scleroderma and SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus).

Urologist: These specialists treat patients with malignancy, functional abnormalities including bladder outflow obstruction, urinary incontinence, stone disease, cystitis, prostate disease, and erectile dysfunction.

For more health related articles read these pages

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