WHEN DO I NEED AN INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST?
Many common infections can be treated by your personal physician. Your doctor might refer you to an infectious disease specialist when:
- An infection is difficult to diagnose
- An infection is accompanied by a high fever
- A patient does not respond to treatment
- A healthy person plans to travel to a foreign country or a location where infection risk is higher
- Treating illnesses becomes a part of a patient’s overall care, for example, a patient with HIV/AIDS
In all of these cases, the specialized training and diagnostic tools of the infectious disease specialist can help determine the cause of your infection and the best approach to treatment.
WHAT WILL MY VISIT BE LIKE?
Infectious disease specialists 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.
Tests: Infectious disease 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 infectious disease specialist detect antibodies that indicate what type of infection you have. These advanced tests can further explain the results of earlier tests, helping to pinpoint the problem.
Treatments: Treatments 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 infectious disease specialists have IV antibiotic therapy available in their offices, which decreases the likelihood that you will need to be hospitalized.
An infectious disease specialist may also recommend a vaccination regimen for you and your children. One of the best strategies for preventing infectious diseases is immunization.
Ask your doctor for advice about other things you and your family can do to prevent infectious diseases.
WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD I GIVE TO MY INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST?
All medical records related to your condition – X-rays, laboratory reports and immunization records. Often your personal physician will forward this information to the specialist before your scheduled appointment.
A list of all medications you take – This list should include over-the-counter and prescription medications
A list of any allergies you have
Let the infectious disease specialist know if you are taking birth control pills – Some antibiotics may interfere with the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.
HOW DOES MY INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST WORK WITH OTHER MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS?
The infectious disease specialist works with your personal physician to determine which diagnostic tests are appropriate. If treatment is necessary, your doctor and the infectious disease specialist will work together to develop a treatment plan best suited to your needs. Often you will be asked to return to the infectious disease 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. If you acquire an infection while in the hospital, the infectious disease 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 infectious disease specialist is also your personal physician, he or she will coordinate your care, referring you to other specialists when necessary.