Layman’s Guide to Understanding Medical Specialists
Pronounced as [a-něs"thĭ-tĭst]
Anesthetist is a specialist who is responsible for keeping the patient anesthetized (sedated) and for monitoring the vital signs like airway, breathing and circulation during surgery. They monitor input and output during the surgery like delivery of intra-venous fluids, blood and other drugs.
Decision on type of anaethesia before surgery can be discussed with them. The choice is wide and includes – Local, Regional - Spinal, Epidural or General Anesthesia.
In general anesthesia the patient loses consciousness completely and the breathing is carried on through a tube inserted from the mouth into the trachea whereas in regional anesthesia an injection is given to block the pain sensation of certain segment of the body and the patient is kept awake. This can be either spinal, epidurals or peripheral nerve block.
Similarly in local anesthesia a very small section of the body is made numb before operating. An anesthetist cares for the patient in the initial post-operative condition also until the time after the surgery when the patient is awakened and the breathing tube is removed. They take care of pain during and immediately after surgery.
Pain Specialist – Some anesthetist specialize in ‘pain relief’ especially for terminal cancer patients.
Cardio-thoracic surgery or neurosurgery anesthesia requires special training.
Surgical Intensive Care specialist also maybe an anesthetist and this branch is now being called ‘Critical Care Medicine.’
Pronounced as [noo-rol-uh-jist]
A neurologist is a physician dealing in disorders of the brain and nervous system. He diagnoses and treats neurological disorders and diseases. His surgical contemporary is called a Neuro-suregon. They generally treat conditions such as meningitis, encephalitis, dementia, epilepsy, headache, Parkinson and Movement Disorders, or Sleep Disorders, congenital disorders, Multiple sclerosis and poliomyelitis.
There are various types of specialties in this branch of medicine including:
Neurologists may also specialize in dealing with dementia, epilepsy, headache medicine, Parkinson and Movement Disorders, or Sleep Disorders.
Pronounced as [än-"käl-&-j&st]
An oncologist is a specialist dealing with treatment of cancer and uses chemotherapy drugs to treat the disease.
Their surgical counterpart is called surgical oncologist. They are trained to treat different kinds of cancer and first work as an assistant under an experienced oncologist. Most of them need to pass an exam to be called an oncologist. They could specialize in cancers of a particular type like gynecological oncology, focusing on female reproductive cancer or urological cancers like testicular, prostate, bladder or kidney cancers.
A Radiation Oncologist uses radiation to treat cancers and may further specialize in one of the broader fields like Genito-urinary, lung or bone cancer.
Hematological Oncology- focuses on cancers of the blood such as leukemia and lymphomas.
Oncology is a rapidly advancing field and it is important for them to keep themselves updated on all medical research, so as to easily diagnose and treat their patients.
In addition they require a lot of compassion as many of their patients are terminally ill.
Pronounced as [pee-dee-uh-trish-uh n]
A pediatrician treats children with medical conditions.
They focus on the prevention, detection and management of physical, behavioral, developmental and social problems that affect children from birth up to 16 years of age. They work to diagnose and treat infections, injuries, and many types of organic disease and dysfunction and bring about improvement in the life of children with chronic problems.
There are various type of pediatricians like those who practice primary care, those looking after the general needs of children and others dealing in children with cancer, heart problems, kidney diseases and so on. Some also specialize in children with behavioral problems and counsel parents.
The nature of a pediatrician needs to be pleasant and friendly as children are their main patients and they have to instill goodwill and confidence in them by befreinding them easily.
General Practitioner (GP)
Pronounced as [jen-er-uh l] [prak-tish-uh-ner]
A general practitioner treats many different medical conditions and ailments on an outpatient basis. They are popularly known as a GP or a ‘family physician’ in many countries.
Normally it is good to identify and register with a GP in the area in which you live. It is a good practice to consult a general practitioner before getting referred to a specialist. General practitioners do not specialize in one organ of the body but have a good knowledge of a wide range of medical conditions and complaints.
They also offer health education and educate their patients about the preventative care measures along with treating both acute and chronic medical ailments. These doctors and may have regular patients and may work in hospitals, private practices and also may make house calls. Their patients may be of all age groups. They will normally handle child immunization and may also be capable of doing minor surgical procedures.
In most countries they have to qualify further in this field before they are licensed to practice as GP. In India many have the basic medical qualification and require no further training and only a few hospitals offer post –graduate level qualification in this field.
A GP should be likeable, friendly, homely, sociable and at the same time well- read. They need to frequently attend meetings to keep themselves updated with latest diagnostic and treatment guidelines for various conditions.
Pronounced as [gās"trō-"en-t&-"räl-&-jist]
A Gastroenterologist is mainly concerned about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions and disorders in the gastrointestinal tract involving the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, rectum, liver and pancreas of adults.
They look into troubles of swallowing, heartburn, chest pain not related to the heart, digestive and elimination problems and certain conditions occurring after surgery. They may also look into chronic gastro-intestinal problems like Crohn’s Disease ulcerative colitis, chronic hepatitis and chronic pancreatitis. Besides they can use endoscopes to screen for ulcers or cancers in the stomach or colon cancer and effect removal of polyps too.
A Gastroenterologist may, in certain conditions, work along with your general practitioner for the cure of a condition or disorder.
Pronounced as [kärd-E-"äl-& -j&st]
A cardiologist is a specialist who is an expert in treating the heart and the associated cardiovascular system.
He may collaborate with cardiac surgeons to decide the course of treatment for his patients. Cardiology is a specialty, which has many subspecialties like interventional cardiology, nuclear cardiology, electro physiology, or echocardiography, which help in making diagnostic studies. In addition one could specialize in medical or surgical procedures and become a cardiac physician or surgeon.
Cardiologists play a very important role and have to be cautious as they deal with the most important part of the human body --the heart. A cardiologist will ask various questions and demand to know many details and carry on various diagnostic tests like stress testing, cardiac catheterization, radiology studies to get more information about the patient"s condition and treatment options. If a surgery is to be done he may take the services of a cardio thoracic surgeon and ensure patient- care after surgery.
Pronounced as ["en-d&-kri-"näl-&-j&st]
An endocrinologist is a specialist who diagnoses and treat diseases like diabetes, thyroid diseases, metabolic disorders, over or under production of hormones, menopause, osteoporosis, hypertension, cholesterol disorders, infertility, lack of growth and endocrine glands cancer..
An endocrinologist could be a diabetologist, dealing in pancreas that produces insulin.
These specialists carry on research to learn and treat patients with hormone imbalances. They treat diabetics so that they are able to avoid other complications like problems of the eyes, kidneys and nerves leading to blindness, dialysis, or amputation. Besides they treat hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism that create problems of weight, strength, energy levels They may also treat thyroid cancer, and enlarged thyroid glands.
Endocrinologists can effectively cure osteomalacia and osteoporosis. Besides they diagnose and treat hormone imbalances causing infertility. Pediatric endocrinologists treat children having a short stature and other growth problems.
Besides, endocrinologists can also treat lipid disorders, such as hypothyroidism drug- use or genetic or metabolic conditions. Endocrinologists can treat hypertension caused by a rare adrenal growth called a pheochromocytoma.
Pronounced as [roo-muh-tol-uh-jist]
A rheumatologist is a medical practitioner who specializes in treating arthritis, rheumatic diseases and conditions involving the bone, joints and muscles. They carry on research regarding these disabling and fatal conditions and can suggest appropriate treatment.
There are more than 100 such types of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, back pain, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and tendonitis, some of which are very difficult to diagnose and treat.
Since many of these diseases involve the immune system, rheumatologist have an in-depth knowledge of the immune system.
Rheumatologists work closely with their patients and orthopedic surgeons and radiologists who perform joint replacements, soft tissue reconstruction and repair and nerve decompression, and report on X-rays, CT, MRI and ultrasound scans.
Rheumatologists may also work in close collaboration with neurosurgeons who attend to neck and back problems.
Pronounced as [ni-"fräl-&-j&st]
A nephrologist is a medical doctor who specializes in kidney care and in treating kidney diseases.
He usually sees patients referred to him by general practitioners, having kidney- related problems, high blood pressure and other metabolic disorders. Nephrologists have to undergo specialized training in kidney diseases and disorders. You would find nephrologists commonly treating chronic kidney disease, polycystic kidney disease, acute renal failure, kidney stones, high blood pressure, kidney transplants and dialysis. He orders blood and urine tests and takes biopsies to determine how the kidney is working.
Nephrologists may not necessarily perform surgical procedures like in the case of kidney or prostrate cancer or kidney stones removal, which are best done by an urologist. They meet their dialysis patients regularly to adjust their medication and therapy according to their problems and conditions. Neprologists play a managerial role in dialysis centers by setting up policies and procedures for dialysis treatment.
Pronounced as [si-kahy-uh-trist]
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diseases and disorders of the mind. He helps to enhance the quality of a person’s life by making assessments of the mind and emotions, providing treatment and rehabilitation care to mentally -disturbed patients.
These specialized doctors help patients with psychiatric or mental disorders to prevent, reduce and eliminate symptoms and disabilities that arise as a result of such disorders. Specialists in psychiatry are well informed and skilled in the integration of medicine, psychiatry, neurosciences and psychosocial sciences. They may also deal with phobias of all types.
Psychiatrists not only help their patients but also counsel the patient’s family doctor about them. They may offer a mix of treatment in some cases, which includes medication, psychotherapy, and counseling. One can find them working in various settings like psychiatric and general hospitals, private consulting rooms, research units, community health centers besides social and government agencies.
Pronounced as [dur-muh-tol-uh-jist]
A dermatologist is a medical expert who can be consulted for skin, nail and hair diseases and disorders.
Dermatology deals with not only study, research and diagnosis of normal disorders, diseases, cancers, cosmetic and ageing condition of the skin, hair and nails but also includes specializations like dermato-histopathology and topical and systemic medications.It also includes dermatological cosmetic surgery, immunotherapy, laser therapy, radiotherapy and photodynamic therapy.
Common skin diseases treated by dermatologists include skin cancer, warts, fungal infections, dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, atomic eczema and herpes simplex. Dermatologists attend to patients in hospitals and private clinics as well as carry on teaching, clinical and basic research. These specialists have an in-depth knowledge of microbiology, pathology, biochemistry, physics, physiology, endocrinology and other specializations as most skin disorders and diseases are caused by internal conditions.
They do perform skin surgeries for skin cancer, remove skin growths and discolorations.
Pronounced as [v&-"nir-E-"äl-&-j&st]
Venereologists deal with the study and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases caused by sexual contact. A person may just be a carrier without realizing it or may actively suffer the symptoms.
Venereologists may be active medical practitioners or may be engaged in research working out methods of prevention, and innovations in treatment. A visit to the venereologist is recommended for those suffering from drug resistance, and for long-term management of sexual infections.
These specialists may have to deal with social issues and moral norms at times in certain societies, however they do play an important role in educating the patients, their family and general public about sexual infections and diseases and about their preventive measures.
Pronounced as ["rAd-E-"äl-&-j&st]
A radiologist is a physician who reads and interprets diagnostic imaging pictures, mammograms, CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound images.
After due specialization, in nuclear medicine, radiation therapy, MRI, CT, neuro-radiology or pediatric, skeletal, genitourinary, or gastrointestinal radiology or mammograms, they may deal in specialized fields.
Radiation physicists, radiation biologists, radiological administrators, and radiological technologists assist radiologists. Registered radiological technologists can perform certain radiological procedures as well as assist in other performances; however, they have to be under the supervision of a radiologist and cannot interpret radiological results.
Radiologists may work in X-ray departments of hospitals or may also work from their private practices with appropriate equipment and technicians. They may work for lesser hours than other doctors, but they do give their interpretations at any time of the day. Most other practitioners do not interpret radiological findings and rely on the radiologist, who is very savvy in making such predictions as he has a through knowledge of the human physiology.
Pronounced as [dahy-uh-bi-tol-uh-jist]
A diabetologist is a health care professional, who specializes in the clinical study, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, which is a metabolic disorder and, therefore, forms a part of endocrinology.
He deals and specializes in diseases and conditions like diabetes mellitus type 1, diabetes mellitus type 2, non-insulin dependent diabetes, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, arteriosclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, foot ulcer and diabetic retinopathy. He may also deal in gestational diabetes.
He may prescribe blood glucose levels, HbA1C levels, physical examination, fundoscopy, Visual acuity, Urinalysis and tests to assess nerve conduction studies. He may be involved in treatment to monitor blood glucose levels over time, assess hypoglycemic agents, prescribe medication, provide foot care, recommend diet, recommend healthy lifestyle and good hygiene and may refer you to an ophthalmologist. Dietitians, nutritionists and nurse educators may all play a valuable part in helping someone learn to live well with diabetes.
Pronounced as [jer-uh n-tol-uh-jee, jeer-]
A gerontologist is a doctor studying and treating conditions arising in the aging process. He mostly works with senior citizens, studying their biological, medical and social issues at that age.
These specialists work in hospitals, nursing homes and laboratories and may form a part of government health policies for the old.
You find these specialists constantly researching on how to slow the deterioration of mental and physical health of senior citizens. A gerontologist is a licensed physician and diagnoses and treats old age diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson disease and osteoporosis. A gerontologist counsels and educates his patients about the ways they can adopt to cope with aging issues. They may also play a vital part in arranging for physiotherapy sessions and check-ups to monitor old age health and give counseling sessions to their family regarding care for them
Pronounced as [/nē-ə-nāt-äl-ə-jəst/]
A neonatologist is a specialist in caring for premature and ill newborns and generally works in hospital’s neo-natal care or baby special care units.
This specialist does tests to make sure that newborn babies are well- developed and free from infections and organ deformities. After delivery,they may keep infants in hospitals to avoid chances of infection and speedy recovery, but have to also make sure the infants are intellectually stimulated, bond with the parents and provided with suitable nutrition in the pediatric care wards.
These specialists are highly- skilled and work with other specialists like respiratory therapists, neonatal nurses, neonatal surgeons, and trainee neonatologists in a team in hospitals.
Pronounced as [hep-ə-täl- -ə-jəst]
A hepatologist is a specialist who is a gastroenterologist dealing in liver diseases and disorders. He deals in disorders like serious and chronic hepatitis, chronic alcoholism, and liver disorders due to certain medications.
It is a well-known fact that the stopping of the function of the liver or it’s ill -functioning can lead to slowing down of metabolism, protein production and may lead to the ultimate toxification of the body.
A hepatologist is consulted for his up-to-date knowledge of medication and treatment of liver diseases and disorders.
Internal Medicine Practitioner
An internal medicine practitioner deals with the diagnosis, management and non-surgical treatment of unusual and serious diseases.
Their patients are often seriously ill or require complex investigations, so they work mostly at hospitals. In modern times internal medicine specialists have started specializing in one organ or a particular area of medical knowledge like gastroenterologists (stomach) and nephrologists (kidney).
These specialists are trained to diagnose severe and chronic illness and cases of multiple illness. They also play a part in preventive medicine, men and women health, substance abuse, mental health and common problems of the eyes, ears, skin, nervous system and reproductive organs.
Nuclear Medicine Practitioner
Nuclear medicine practitioner or technologist is a professional who is trained and experienced in the theory and practice of nuclear medicine procedures that involve the use of small amounts of radioactive materials (or tracers) that is administered by injection, swallowing, or inhalation to diagnose and treat a variety of diseases.
These RA tracers are attracted to specific parts of the body and show up as gamma rays detected externally by cameras. Nuclear medicine imaging procedures have been successful in identifying abnormalities much earlier than radiological procedures. Today, nuclear medicine offers procedures that cover a wide range of medical specialties, from pediatrics to cardiology to psychiatry.
Nuclear medicine practitioners carry on bone scans to examine orthopedic injuries, fractures, tumors, or unexplained bone pain and heart scans to identify normal or abnormal blood flow to the heart muscle, measure heart function or determine the existence or extent of damage to the heart muscle after a heart attack. Besides they conduct breast scans to locate cancerous tissues in the breast, and liver, gall bladder and kidney scans to judge the functioning of liver, gallbladder and kidney.
Besides they also carry on thyroid and lung scans and also scans to detect the causes of gastrointestinal bleeding.