Frequent Asked Questions (FAQ) about Infectious Diseases
Q: What is an infectious diseases specialist?
A: An infection diseases specialist is a doctor of internal medicine who is qualified as an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. The special skills of the infectious diseases specialist are not confined to one organ system, but include expertise in infections of any kind, whether they are of the sinuses, heart, brain, lungs, urinary tract, bowel, bones or pelvic organs. Infectious diseases specialists have extensive training in all kinds of infections, including those caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Along with this knowledge comes a particular insight into the use of antibiotics and their potential adverse effects. The infectious diseases specialist also has additional training and understanding in immunology (how the body fights infection), epidemiology (how infections spread), and infection control.
Q: Who needs an infectious diseases specialist?
A: Not everyone who has an infectious disease needs absolutely to see an infectious diseases specialist. Your personal physician is able to take care of most infections, but sometimes specialized expertise is needed. When a fever raises the suspicion that you may have an infection, when an infection is potentially serious, or when problems occur with treatment, it may be necessary to consult an infectious diseases specialist. He or she can provide special insight into tests that will be helpful in understanding the disease and preventing recurrent infections. The infectious diseases specialist can best determine what treatment you need, if any, and whether you should receive antibiotics by mouth or by vein. You may not require any treatment, but if you do, the infectious diseases specialist may confer with your personal physician about which diagnostic testing and forms of treatment are best suited to your needs.
Q: What does an infectious diseases specialist do?
A: Work in this specialty is limited to diagnosis and medical treatment. Infectious diseases specialists do not perform surgery. When your physician asks an infectious diseases specialist to see you in consultation, the specialist may review your medical data including records, X-rays and laboratory reports. He or she may perform a physical examination depending in part upon the type of problem you are having. Infectious diseases specialists are also involved in counseling healthy people who are planning to travel to countries where there is an increased risk of infection. Laboratory studies are often necessary and may include blood studies and cultures of wounds or body fluids. The infectious diseases specialist may sometimes order blood serum studies of antibodies for unusual diseases. These will add to the studies that your personal physician may already have done, to give a complete picture of your health and the progress of your treatment.
Q: What is telemedicine?
A:Telemedicine (also referred to as "telehealth" or "e-health") allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients in remote locations using telecommunications technology such as the internet . Telemedicine allows patients in remote locations to access medical expertise quickly, efficiently and without travel from the comfort of the house.
Q: Will I still need my personal physician?
A: Yes, you will, unless the infectious diseases specialist is your primary physician. Usually you will be asked to return for a follow-up visit to review the results of the tests and to be sure that your infection has been eliminated. The infectious diseases specialist may wish to follow-up with you until he or she feels that the infection will not recur. You will resume care with your regular physician when your condition has stabilized or is cured.
Q: How can I get the most from my visit?
A: It is particularly helpful if you can bring all of your records, immunization dates and any X-rays relating to your problem with you or have them sent in advance to your initial office appointment with the infectious diseases specialist. It is extremely important that you bring a list of all present medications (or the actual medications themselves) to the visit to be certain that your infectious diseases specialist knows exactly what you are taking. If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any drugs, you need to make the infectious diseases specialist aware of the specific drugs that caused them, and the symptoms of your allergic reactions.
If you find that you cannot make a scheduled appointment, please call the office as soon as possible to reschedule your appointment. This enables the doctor to eventually see someone else in need of care.
Q: Can an infectious diseases specialist give me a physical checkup?
A: Certainly. As a broadly trained internist, comprehensive diagnostic work is part of everyday practice. Some infectious diseases specialists prefer to see patients only after referral from another physician, whereas others may have an internal medicine practice of their own. During the course of an examination, if a condition is found that does not fall within his or her area of expertise, the infectious diseases specialist may arrange for the services of another physician. As a rule, blood counts, urinalysis and X-ray tests will he conducted on most patients undergoing a complete examination in an infectious diseases specialist's office.