What Kind of Doctor Do I Need?

Some health insurance plans allow you to refer yourself to a doctor—that is, if you know what is wrong, you can go see a medical specialist without having to be referred by your regular doctor. In other plans, you have to be referred to a specialist by your primary care physician (regular doctor). If you are trying to figure out what kind of doctor you need for your health problem or symptoms you’re having, then this list will help you out. It tells you what kind of doctor treats what. Then you can find the name of a specialist by calling your local hospital, asking friends or family if they know a good doctor, or asking your primary care doctor to recommend someone.

One tip I learned a long time ago about finding a good doctor—ask a nurse. Nurses know the best doctors! In general there are two categories of doctors, those that practice medicine and those that do surgery—some do both. If you are seeking the help of a doctor, either a general medical doctor, a specialist, or a surgeon, the following medical specialty list will help you with what type doctor you need. These specialists may be MDs (medical doctors) or DOs (doctors of osteopathy). The following list is for medical doctors, if you need more information about surgery and surgeons see: What Kind of Surgeon Do I Need?

Allergist/Immunologist

An allergist/immunologist is a doctor that specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of allergies, and disorders of the immune system. Allergies are when the body’s immune system overreacts to something it’s not used to causing a “reaction.” Allergens—things that irritate the body, like pollen, foods, mold, smoke, or medicine—can cause an allergic reaction or allergy. Symptoms of allergic reaction can include sneezing, rash, tears in the eyes and runny nose. Shortness of breath, chest tightness and trouble breathing are symptoms of a severe reaction, and often need emergency treatment. An allergist specializes in identifying the causes of these reactions and recommends treatment. Treatment can include avoiding the allergen, shots to decrease symptoms (called desensitization shots) or pills.
An allergist/immunologist treats ashtma, anaphylasis, rhinitis, eczema, urticaria, adverse reactions to drugs, foods and insect stings. They also treat problems related to autoimmune disease, organ transplantation or malignancies of the immune system. Disorders include allergic rhinitis, anaphylaxis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis.

Anesthesiologist

An anesthesiologist is the doctor that gives you anesthesia, puts “you to sleep,” when you have surgery, a baby or certain diagnostic procedures. (Anesthesia is the loss of all sensation.) They also asses the condition of your lungs, heart and circulation before surgery. They decide how much and what kind of anesthesia is needed, and your position on the operating table. They provide either local or general anesthesia. During the operation they watch for signs of trouble and then decide and take any actions needed to keep an emergency from developing. They also direct the resuscitation in patients with heart or breathing emergencies. Anesthesiologists watch your progress while you wake up and immediately after surgery for any complications from the anesthesia or breathing. 
Some anesthesiologist manage pain after surgery, work in pain control clinics, do epidural injections for back pain and provide anesthesia for test such as a colonoscopy.

Cardiologist

(Best Hospitals for Cardiology)

A cardiologist is a doctor that specializes in diagnosing heart disease and caring for the heart including heart failure, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, and high blood pressure.
Reasons to see a cardiologist include chest pains (angina), heart attack (myocardial infarction), irregular heart beats (arrhythmias), abnormal heart beats, heart murmurs, heart valve disorders, heart muscle disease, pulmonary hypertension, pericarditis, low blood pressure, shock, high blood pressure (hypertension), abnormal EKG’s, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, coronary artery disease, mitral valve disease, heart tumors, pericardial diseases, Dressler’s syndrome, ventricular septal defects, or pre-operative medical clearance.
Cardiologist do test such as
  • electrocardiogram
  • Doppler echocardiogram
  • stress test including nuclear stress test
  • cardiac catheterization

An interventional cardiologist also performs cardiac catheterization (heart cath), angioplasty, and inserts stents into the blood vessels of the heart.

American College of Cardiology 

Dermatologist

A dermatologist is a doctor that specializes in dermatology— the branch of medical science that deals with the structure, function, and disorders of the skin, hair and nails. 
A dermatologist evaluates and treats skin rashes, growths, infections, hair loss, and nail problems. Dermatologists remove warts, biopsy skin for skin cancers, and treat skin cancer of mouth, and external genitalia. Disorders a dermatologist treats include nail fungus, psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, acne, rosacea, urticaria, scabies, herpes zoster, ring worm, hives, dandruff, and fungal infections. Dermatologists have extensive experience in treating skin cancers, moles, skin tumors, contact dermatitis and infectious diseases. Dermatologists manage scars and other cosmetic disorders.
American Academy of Dermatology

Emergency Medicine

The doctor who provides emergency care in an emergency clinic or hospital emergency room is an emergency medicine specialist. These specialists treat sudden illnesses, accidents or injuries such as gun shot wounds or auto accidents that may be life threatening.

Endocrinologist

(Best Hospitals for Endocrinology)

An endocrinologist diagnoses and treats disorders of glands and hormones. Specific organs in the endocrine system include the thyroid (which regulates the body’s metabolism and energy level), the parathyroid (which regulates calcium and vitamin D), the adrenal glands (which regulates water and mineral balance and produces steroids, amines, epinephrine and norepinephrine), the ovaries (which regulates female hormones), the testes (which regulates male hormones), the pancreas (which secretes insulin to regulate blood sugar and glucagon), and the pituitary gland (produces oxytocin and ADH and secretes precursor hormones for other glands to work).
The endocrinologists  treats disorders due to the over- or under-production of gland hormones such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar), adult onset diabetes mellitus, Addison’s disease, Grave’s disease, Cushing’s Syndrome, pituitary tumors, calcium metabolism disorders and goiter.

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists

Family Practitioner

For most of us, it is a family practice doctor that we know best. They are the ones that coordinate our health care and often called “primary care doctors.” A Family Practice doctor specializes in family medicine, and does not practice surgery. A family doctor can give care, preventive care services, as well as treat disorders and diseases regardless of age, gender, or type of problem. Sometimes, family doctors may sew up minor cuts, open small abscesses or remove warts.

Gastroenterologist

(Best Hospitals for Gastroenterology)

An gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders (diseases) of the digestive system, gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, duodenum, large intestine, anus, rectum, pancreas, liver disease, gallbladder disease, and biliary system.
Disorders of the GI tract include difficulty swallowing, appendicitis, cirrhosis of the liver, gallstones, diverticulitis, diverticulosis, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), hepatitis, jaundice, hiatal hernia, cholecystitis, inflammatory bowel disease, enlarged liver or spleen, chronic pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, bloody stools, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, bowel obstruction, peptic ulcer, stomach ulcers, gastric ulcers, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids, gastric reflux, peptic ulcer, and heartburn. See a gastroenterologist for symptoms such as blood in stool.  

Gastrointestinal tract tests, such as endoscopy (looking for tumors, bleeding, ulcers and cancer) and colonoscopy (looking for tumors, polyps, inflammation, bleeding, ulcers and cancer in the colon) are preformed or interpreted by a gastroenterologist.American College of Gastroenterology

Geriatrician

Specializes in the care of older adults (health for seniors) called geriatrics. They are trained to recognize unusual presentations of illness and drug interactions. Common geriatric conditions include incontinence, falls, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Gynecologist/Obstetrician

(Best hospitals for Gynecology)

A gynecologist specializes in women’s health and medicine including prenatal care and fertility.
Obstetricians deliver baby’s and can do surgeries such as c-section (cesarean), episiotomy, and hysterectomy. Gynecologists treat disorders such as ovulation problems, cervical problems, uterine bleeding, painful periods, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids, and breast changes.A perinatologist also cares for pregnant women, but specializes in care for women with problem pregnancies such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and preterm birth.
 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Hematologist/Oncologist

(Best hospitals for Cancer)

A hematologist specializes in disorders of the blood, spleen and lymph nodes such as anemia, AIDs, clotting disorders, hemophilia, thrombocytopenia, leukemia, sickle cell disease and cancers of the lymph node glands (lymphoma). They perform special types of transfusions and biopsy bone marrow for analysis. An oncologist is a doctor that specializes in oncology, the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of tumors. Tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). An oncologist specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and management of cancer. Treatment can include bone marrow biopsy or chemotherapy.

Hospitalist

A hospitalist is a hospital-based general physician, medical sub specialist (pediatrician) or family practitioner who assume the care of hospitalized patients in the place of patients’ primary care doctor in acute care or intensive care units. The hospitalist acts as a consultant on surgical patients and has limited outpatient care responsibilities.

Infectious Disease Specialist

An infectious disease specialist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, or unknown origin.
Infectious disease specialists treat infections that have not responded to treatment by your regular doctor or other life threatening infections like HIV, tuberculosis and MRSA. They also treat viral infections, worm infestations, zoonoses, tapeworm, lyme disease, candida, and airborne infections. They treat infectious disorders including herpes simplex, herpes zoster, infectious mononucleosis, lyme disease, rabies, respiratory syncytial virus, rubella, salmonellosis, and toxoplasmosis. 

Internist

An internist is a doctor that specializes in internal medicine for adolescents and adults, and does not practice surgery. Internal medicine is the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of non surgical diseases. Today, a general internist is often called a “primary care doctor” and treats adults and adolescents. The internist’s training includes emergency medicine, hospital medicine, geriatrics, and critical care medicine. Internists do physical exams.

Nephrologist

A nephrologists specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney and urinary tract diseases. Any abnormalities in diagnostic kidney testsor urine tests are referred to a nephrologist.They also monitor patients on dialysis, set dietary restrictions for kidney disease and dialysis patients, consult with surgeons for kidney transplants and surgeries, and do endoscopy of the renal system.
Nephrologists treat acute and chronic kidney (renal) failure, high blood pressure, fluid and mineral imbalances, dialysis of body wastes, glomerulonephritis, neurogenic bladder, kidney stones, polycystic kidney disease, hydronephrosis, nephrosis, nephritis, acute tubular necrosis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatitis, blood vessel disorders of the kidneys, and urinary tract infections and obstructions. Nephrologist can perform a kidney biopsy.

Neurologist

(Best Hospitals for Neurology)

A neurologist diagnoses, treats and manages nervous system disorders and injuries which include the brain, nerves, and spinal cord. Neurologist also treat peripheral nerves, muscles, and the autonomic nervous system as well as the blood vessels that related to these structures.They also specialize in brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, seizure disorders, migraine headaches, pain, meningitis, epilepsy, Guillain-Barré, myasthenia gravis, brain tumors and brain infections, cerebral palsy, dyspraxia and dementia. A neurologist treats traumatic brain injuries and head injuries, stroke, coma, transient ischemic attacks, and hypoxia. Neurologists treat nervous system disorders like multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), viral and bacterial encephalitis, infections of the brain and spinal cord, and herpes zoster. They also treat sleep disorders and problems sleeping, smell and taste disorders.
Neurologists perform test such as nerve conduction studies and lumbar puncture.

Ophthalmologist/Optometrist

(Best Hospitals for Opthalmology)

An ophthalmologist or optometrist is a doctor that specializes in disorders of the eye and vision correction such as nearsightedness, farsightedness. They treat eye problems caused by high blood pressure and diabetes, glaucoma, lens problems, uveitis and iritis, disorders of the retina, retinopathy, cataracts, conjunctivitis, and pink eye. They also prescribe glasses and contact lenses. Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the structure, function and diseases of the eye and do surgery.

Orthopedist

(Best Hospitals for Orthopedics)

An orthopedist is a doctor that specializes in orthopedics – the field of medicine that deals with the correction, preservation and prevention of skeletal deformities. Orthopedists usually have a specialty interest (sub-specialty) and focus their practice on a certain part of the skeletal system such as the hand, foot, or spine. Orthopedist not only treat medical conditions, they  do surgery such as hip, knee and shoulder replacements, knee arthroscopy and spinal fusion.Orthopedists treat musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease),  carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic low back pain, fibromyalgia, tendinitis, degenerative disc disease, joint dislocations, osteoporosis, osteomyelitis, osteomalacia, Paget’s disease, scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis, Herbeden’s notes, Bouchard’s nodes, ganglions, gout, pseudogout, Charcot’s joints, plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, Achilles Tendonitis, rhabdomyolysis, bursitis, tendonitis or tendonopathy, spinal stenosis, sciatica, spondylolisthesis, and sports injuries such as ligament and tendon tears, strains and sprains and bone fractures. They treat neck and shoulder problems such as whiplash, torticollis, frozen shoulder, dislocated shoulder.
Orthopedists administer cortisone injections for bursitis and other tendon and ligaments injuries.

Otolaryngologist

(Best Hospitals for Otolaryngology)

An otolaryngologist specializes in diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the ears, nose and throat and the head and neck in general.
These disorders include: ear infections (otitis media), hearing loss, earache, perforated ear drum, middle ear cysts, sinus infection, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), vertigo, Meniere’s disease, balance problems, and nosebleeds.

Pain Management Specialist

Pain management specialists treat all types of pain. These doctors are usually anesthesiologists with special training in pain management. Chronic pain—pain that lasts more than 3 months—is managed by pain care specialist on an outpatient basis. Treatments include prescription pain medicine as patches or pills, nerve block injections, and referrals to physical therapy, massage and acupuncture.

Pediatrician

A pediatrician is a doctor that specializes in pediatrics – the branch of medicine that deals with the development and care of newborns, infants, children and adolescents—ages birth to 18. Pediatricians provide much the same health care for children as an internist provides for adults. There are also sub-specialties of pediatrics such as psychiatry and cardiology.

Podiatrist

Foot disorders are diagnosed and treated by a podiatrist. A podiatrist can also do surgery on the foot and ankle and treat problems such as ingrown toenails, bunions, plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, hammertoe, achilles tendon tear, achilles tendonitis, and rupture, corns, heel pain, heel spurs, stress fractures, toe nails, tendon injuries in the foot and leg, tarsal tunnel syndrome, foot numbness, shin splints, ankle sprains, and physical deformities of the foot and ankle. Podiatrist also treat sports injuries to the feet and ankle. Podiatrist also recommend and fit orthotics such as sock liners and arch supports.

Psychiatrist

(Best Hospitals for Psychiatry)

A psychiatrist is a doctor that specializes in the branch of medicine that deals with the study and treatment of mental, addictive, emotional, and behavioral disorders including depression, mood disorders, anxiety disorders like poor sleep, loss of appetite and agitation, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, obsessive compulsive disorder, personality disorder, phobias, psychoses and schizophrenia.

Psychologist

A psychologist is a doctor that specializes in the branch of medicine that deals with the study and treatment of behavior.

Pulmonologist

A pulmonologist specializes in pulmonary medicine and treats disorders of the lungs and chest (respiratory disorders) like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), ARDS, acute respiratory distress, pneumonia, asbestosis, asthma, atelectasis, bronchiectasis, bronchitis, cor pulmonale, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, tuberculosis, obstructive airway disease, pulmonary edema, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), pulmonary embolism, pleural disorders, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, pulmonary embolism, pleural effusion, and pneumothorax. Pulmonologists also do test such as bronchoscopy.

Radiologist

Interpretation of x-rays and other diagnostic studies such as MRI, CT scans, mammograms, and sonograms are done by a radiologist. Interventional radiologist can perform biopsies and angiograms as well as inject chemotherapy into tumors.

Radiation Oncologist

A radiation oncologist specializes in the treatment of cancer, especially malignant tumors, using radiation and works closely with the oncologist. They determine where the radiation goes, the type needed, and the dosage for the type of cancer.

Rheumatologist

(Best Hospitals for Rheumatology)

A rheumatologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the joints, muscles, bones, tendons and connective tissue. They treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, and symptoms of rheumatism. They also treat common sports injuries and collagen diseases. 

Urologist

(Best Hospitals for Urology)

A urologist specializes in urology – the branch of medicine that deals with the urinary tract, ureters, kidneys, adrenal glands, bladder and disorders of the prostate. These disorders include kidney stones, cystitis, incontinence, pyelonephritis, prostatitis, prostate cancer, enlarged prostate, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), sexually transmitted disease (STDs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, urethritis, syphilis, genital herpes, ejaculation problems, erection problems and erectile dysfunction.

Surgeon

For hernia repair surgery, you should see a general surgeon.
For more information about the different types of surgeons and what operations they perform.

Comments

  1. what kind of surgeon do I jeed for tarsal tunnel surgery

  2. Media Partners says:

    Find a podiatrist that does foot surgery or an orthopedic surgeon.

  3. I NEED A NAME!!!!!!!!!THE NAME OF A DOTOR FOR ASTHMA!!!!!GRRRRRRRR!!!!!!

  4. Media Partners says:

    If you’re trying to find a doctor for a particular problem, the best place to start is with your health care insurance plan. Does your plan let you refer yourself to a doctor or do you have to see your primary care doctor first? If you have to be referred by your primary care doctor, then he/she will give you a name of someone to see. If you can refer yourself, then your health care plan likely has a list of doctors by specialty that your health care plan allows you to see. Check the list for a doctor/specialist near you.

    However you get a doctor’s name, do a search online to find out if there are bad reviews on the doctor. For example, search “Reviews on Dr. So-and-so” and find out if there are positive or negative reviews.

    Personally, the best way to find a doctor is to ask a nurse. Ask family or friends in the health care field if they can give you names of the best doctors. Good luck.

  5. i am in the philippines. health care insurance here are not really proactive in choosing a doctor for the holder.

    my appetite is almost nil. what type of doctor should i see?

  6. Media Partners says:

    There could be several reasons for a loss of appetite. I would start with a general practitioner, family practice doctor or internist and make sure your overall health is not a cause for your appetite issues.

  7. Jeanette says:

    What doctor do I need? Loss of feeling or circulation in right arm. Does not feel normal.

  8. Media Partners says:

    If you think it’s poor circulation, I would start with my regular doctor, an internist or family practice doctor. Loss of feeling could be a musculoskeletal problem, in which case I’d want an orthopedist or neurologist. In either case, I’d go to my regular doctor and find the cause for the problem. Poor circulation can result in blood clots. Nerve damage can result if nerve problems go untreated.

  9. Criselyn tan says:

    My son has skin rashes by not itchy it look like a urticaria. which doctor treat skin rash urticaria?

  10. Media Partners says:

    Skin problems are treated by a dermatologist.

  11. Wow, I never knew that there was so many specialist until I had to look it up for my assignment for my diploma in nursing :/
    Thanks for putting this up though :) It’s helped me alot :)

  12. what kind of doctor do i need to see about post polio syndrome.

  13. Media Partners says:

    You would see a neurologist for post polio syndrome.

  14. 1. I have constant numbing in my hands, arms and both legs.
    2. If I sleep in a position for too long I cannot move when I wake up without extreme pain. Moving a is painful. When I FORCE myself up and walk like a caveman hunched down for 15 minutes it goes away.

    Been to neurologist and told me I have carpal tunnel. He never ordered a MRI for my back just my brain. Finally my primary care doc orderd an MRI for my Cervical spine only and it came back with multiple disc bulges c4-c7. He wanted to send me to pain management…. NO way… As painful as it is, I want to fix it not just covered it up…

    Are these things related? Who should I see about this? Obviously my neurologist can’t help me. Please Help.
    Thanks Laura

  15. Media Partners says:

    Laura,

    You’re a mess. :) A neurologist is the right kind of doctor for nerve problems, but you may not have seen the right neurologist. Find another one and get a second opinion. Sometimes nerves are just aggravated and pain management will give you relief until the nerves calm down and quit hurting. Sometimes physical therapy helps. And as a last resort, surgery. The nerves that affect the shoulders and arms are different than the nerves that affect the legs. I would find the best neurologist I could find and see them and get some relief. I have been fighting a similar problem with my neck. My arms hurt only when I lay down. When I’m up and around I’m fine. I have seen an orthopedist and had MRI and now he wants a nerve conduction study to which I said heck no. I’m trying to heal myself with a cervical collar and sleeping on my back. It is very slow going. Riding in the car makes mine worse so I avoid that as much as I can.

  16. What Dr should I see about Dyspraxia?

  17. Searching for a specfic type of doctor that performs transduodenal sphincteroplasty

  18. Media Partners says:

    Have you tried a surgeon that does colon surgery? I’ll look into this and see what I can find. Thanks for the request.

  19. Wondering if a podiatrist would be better for toenail fungus than a dermatologist.

  20. Media Partners says:

    I think both could treat. My son went to a dermatologist and found there was no need to treat the fungus as it would stay under the nail. It was ugly, but not harmful.

  21. My husband had a bump in the head with a very hard cabinet, he had no signs of bleeding, just a bump in the head. The pain doesn’t go away for 5 days now, and he always feel dizzy after that. what doctor should I see for him?

  22. Media Partners says:

    He could have bleeding from the concussion that you can’t see, or a blood clot. See his regular doctor or a neurologist if his insurance allows him to refer himself to a specialist. He will probably need a scan of some kind to check for the extent of the injury.

  23. I need to know what kind of Dr. i need to see for my lower leg pain and Muscle pull problem

  24. Media Partners says:

    Your regular doctor may be able to treat if the pull is not too severe. An orthopedist or a doctor that specializes in sports medicine also treat muscle sprains and strains.

  25. Hi. My father-in-law is having a recurrence of bladder cancer. He has two urologists, one in each of the states he lives in. They disagree on the next course of treatment. My FIL has had 14 BCG treatments and one tumor removal, at which time he was labeled as Stage III. Is a urologist the best type of doctor to seek another opinion from? Is there a type of doctor that specializes in bladder cancer?

  26. my husband has a nodes that appears on his upper back part on the right side of her body it grows so slow but still it became bigger that the usual size. We already consulted 2 doctors and they have the same opinion they told us that it is an excess fats but mu husband complain that sometimes it swells with unbearable pain..I’m so worried about it and I am sicking for the right doctor for another check..will you please give us some advice regarding this matter

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