Internal medicine specialists who specialize in diagnosing, treating, and managing infectious diseases are known as infectious disease specialists. These experts have a thorough understanding of how viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi affect the body, particularly in the areas of the sinuses, bone, brain, heart, lungs, bowel, pelvis, and urinary tract. An infectious disease specialist usually goes through nine to ten years of intensive training, which includes learning immunology and epidemiology.
A general internist can diagnose and treat most infectious diseases. A general internist may refer a patient to an infectious disease specialist if the diagnosis is difficult, the prescribed treatment has failed, or the patient has a fever in addition to an infection. Medical histories, X-rays, and laboratory reports detailing the results of blood work and wound cultures may be reviewed when a patient is referred to this type of specialist. A specialist may also decide to conduct his or her own tests on a patient, ranging from basic physicals to more advanced tests such as a blood serum analysis, which determines what types of antibodies — and thus what types of infections — are present in the body.
In most cases, infectious disease specialists are able to treat patients in their offices. Oral antibiotics can be used to treat a variety of infectious diseases. IV antibiotic therapy, which allows antibiotics to be injected directly into a patient’s veins, may also be available to specialists. The need for patient hospitalization is reduced because these treatments are readily available in the average specialist’s office.
Infectious disease specialists can also help patients avoid or prepare for situations where they might be exposed to infectious diseases. He or she can, for example, teach someone visiting a foreign country about proper sanitation and the most common infectious diseases in the area. Immunizations may also be recommended specialists prior to travel.
Patients who have been referred to an infectious disease specialist should prepare for their first appointment. Making a call to his general internist’s office and confirming that all of his records have been forwarded to the specialist can assist the doctor in diagnosing and treating the patient’s disease. A patient should also gather his immunization records and make a list of all known allergies and medications that he is taking to present to the specialist. It’s important to remember that an expert will collaborate closely with the referring doctor and may even refer patients to other specialists. To diagnose and treat the patient, all of the patient’s doctors will collaborate, though the infectious disease specialist may play the most active role in diagnosing, treating, managing, and preventing infections.