is an Infectious Diseases Specialist?
infectious diseases (ID) specialist is a physician with
advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses
caused by microorganisms or germs. Because their training and
experience cover a unique cross-section of medicine, ID
specialists often are asked to evaluate and oversee
challenging cases. ID specialists practice both in hospitals
and in office settings.
kind of training do ID specialists have?
physician has undergone nine to ten years of education and
training. After four years of medical school, he or she spent
three more years being trained as a doctor of internal
medicine or pediatrics. This was followed by two to three years of
specialized training in infectious
diseases. Most ID
specialists who treat patients also are board certified, which
means they have passed a difficult examination and are
by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both
internal medicine and infectious diseases or by the American
Board of Pediatrics in both pediatrics and infectious
kinds of patients and cases do ID specialists treat?
ID specialists diagnose and
treat conditions resulting from all types of infections,
including those caused by germs such as bacteria, viruses,
fungi and parasites. These microscopic organisms penetrate the
body's natural barriers and multiply, creating symptoms
ranging from sore throat and fever (as in the case of strep
throat) to more serious and even deadly problems (such as AIDS
ID specialists also see patients to
determine whether the symptoms are due to an infection or not.
Most commonly, the patient has a fever.
Some ID specialists serve as primary care
physicians, treating most illnesses and coordinating their
patients' overall care.
should I see an ID specialist?
infectious diseases require you to see an ID specialist. Many
common infections can be treated by your personal physician.
Your doctor might refer you to an ID specialist in cases where
an infection is difficult to diagnose, is accompanied by a
high fever or does not respond to treatment. The specialized
training and diagnostic tools of the ID specialist can help
determine the cause of your infection and the best approach to
specialists also see healthy people who plan to travel to
foreign countries or locations where infection risk is higher.
In these cases, ID specialists can help determine whether
special immunizations or other preventive measures are
necessary to protect travelers from disease.
kinds of tests, procedures and treatments are typical?
diseases specialists are like medical detectives. They examine
difficult cases, looking for clues to identify the culprit and
solve the problem. If you are in the hospital or ICU with a
severe illness, you may not be aware of your ID specialist’s
visits, constant attention and care. Much of their work is
done behind the scenes. Examining germs carefully under the
microscope, ID specialists make a diagnosis and coordinate a
plan to treat your disease. They will review your medical
data, including X-rays and laboratory reports such as blood
work and culture data. They also may perform a physical exam
to help determine the cause of the problem.
specialists often order laboratory tests to examine samples of
blood or other body fluids or cultures from wounds. A blood
serum analysis can help the ID specialist detect antibodies
that indicate what type of infection you have. Often these
advanced studies can further explain the results of earlier
tests, helping to pinpoint the problem.
consist of medicines—usually antibiotics—to help battle
the infection and prevent it from returning. These medicines
may be given to you orally (in the form of pills or liquids)
or administered directly into your veins, via an IV tube. Many
ID specialists have IV antibiotic therapy available in their
offices, which decreases the likelihood that the patient will
need to be hospitalized. ID specialists do not perform
does my ID specialist work with other medical professionals?
specialist works with your personal physician to determine
which diagnostic tests are appropriate. If treatment is
necessary, your doctor and the ID specialist will work
together to develop a treatment plan best suited to your
needs. Often you will be asked to return to the ID specialist
for a follow-up visit. This allows the specialist to check on
your progress, confirm that the infection is gone, and help
prevent it from coming back.
acquire an infection while in the hospital, the ID specialist
will work with other hospital physicians to help direct your
care. The specialist also might provide follow-up care after
you go home.
If your ID
specialist is also your personal physician, he or she will
coordinate your care, referring you to other specialists when
information should I give my ID specialist?
Be sure to
give your ID specialist all medical records related to your
condition, including X-rays, laboratory reports and
immunization records. Often your personal physician will
forward this information to the specialist before your
scheduled appointment. You should also provide the ID
specialist with a complete list of all medications you are
taking and any allergies you have. This list should include
over-the-counter (nonprescription) medications as well. Also,
be sure to tell the ID specialist if you are taking birth
control pills; some antibiotics may interfere with the
effectiveness of oral contraceptives.
can I do to help reduce the risk of getting an
One of the
best strategies for preventing infectious diseases is
immunization. Make sure you and your children receive all
recommended vaccinations. Ask your doctor for advice about
other things you and your family can do to prevent infectious
can I get more information about prevention
doctor is your best source of information. In addition, the
Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), a professional
organization of more than 5,000 ID physicians, scientists and
other infectious diseases experts, can help point you in the
direction of resources and additional information.
and treatment of infectious diseases?