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5 Types of Health Professionals You Should Know About

Overview

Key points:

  1. Understanding the various medical specialties can help you find the correct doctor for your condition.
  2. Keep a list of specialists your family or friends recommend to help you narrow your choices if you need to see that type of doctor in the future.
  3. Your primary care practitioner or your insurance company can often refer you to specialists.

The list of potential medical professionals you’ll meet during your life is long. Everyone should have a family doctor or primary care doctor. Beyond that, you may need some other types of doctors depending on your condition. Some people only need to see another type of doctor on occasion. Others, such as people with chronic conditions, may need to see additional doctors more frequently.

Keep reading to learn more about five doctors you’re likely to encounter in your lifetime.

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ENT

Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor

Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor

An ENT doctor specializes in conditions and disorders that affect the areas in and around your ears, nose, and throat. This type of doctor is also known as an otolaryngologist.

Why you might need to see one

ENT doctors treat people who have chronic conditions such as hearing impairment, problems balancing, or ringing in the ears. They can also order hearing aids, treat acute conditions such as ear infections, and perform surgical procedures on ears and sinuses.

How you can find one

If you think you need to see an ENT doctor, ask your family doctor or internist to refer you to one. An ENT doctor is a specialist, and some medical insurances require a referral from your general practitioner before they’ll pay for your visits to specialists.

If your general practitioner doesn’t have a recommendation for an ENT doctor, you can also contact your local hospital for a list of affiliated doctors. The maintains a list of board-certified ENT doctors. You can also check your insurance company’s list of in-network providers to narrow down your choices. You can do this by calling your provider or searching for providers on their website.

Dermatologist

Dermatologist

Dermatologist

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of conditions and disorders that affect the:

  • skin
  • hair
  • nails
  • membranes lining your mouth, nose, and eyelids

Among other things, a dermatologist can conduct a full-body exam and check for signs of skin cancer, remove suspected cancer, and perform reconstructive surgery to hide scars.

Dermatologists also treat conditions like acne, plaque psoriasis, and hair loss. Some dermatologists may provide cosmetic procedures, such as onabotulinumtoxina (Botox) and hyaluronic acid (Juvederm) injections, and laser hair removal.

Why you might need to see one

An annual skin check is recommended if you have:

  • a history of exposure to the sun or ultraviolet lights
  • a family history of skin cancer
  • precursors for skin cancer

You may also see a dermatologist if you have a skin condition that needs treatment beyond what your general doctor can provide.

How you can find one

Ask your general doctor for a recommendation. Ask your friends, family, and coworkers for one, too. If they don’t have any options, seek out professional organizations, such as the . Their list of dermatologists can help you find credible ones in your area.

You may also search your health insurance company’s list of preferred doctors. Make sure the doctor is board-certified by the .

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Neurologist

Neurologist

Neurologist

A neurologist treats conditions and disorders of the nervous system. The nervous system is a vast network that’s responsible for many of the body’s major activities. Your nervous system includes the:

  • brain
  • spinal cord
  • nerves
  • ears
  • eyes
  • skin
  • nose

Why you might you need to see one

A neurologist diagnoses and treats conditions that might impact everything from your ability to walk and talk, to your ability to smell. For example, people who have a stroke often see a neurologist as part of their recovery. Neurologists also treat other conditions, including:

  • pain disorders
  • seizure disorders
  • neurodegenerative disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease
  • migraine headaches

How you can find one

Your general practitioner may refer you to a neurologist if they suspect your problem is beyond their ability to diagnose and treat. Most people will find a neurologist by recommendation from their doctor.

If you want another option or don’t have a referral, first look to your insurance company’s list of preferred doctors. Compare your in-network options to recommendations from friends and colleagues. Don’t be afraid to use online rating groups like and check that the doctor is board-certified by the .

Podiatrist

Podiatrist

Podiatrist

A podiatrist diagnoses and treats conditions of the foot, ankle, leg, and their surrounding structures.

Podiatrists have specialized training to care for these parts of your body properly. Conditions they treat range from diabetic infections and bone loss, to toenail fungus.

Why you might need to see one

If a condition that’s affecting your feet, ankles, or legs is beyond what your family doctor can treat, they may refer you to this type of specialist. Podiatrists can diagnose and treat a variety of conditions and disorders. They can also perform surgery and reconstructive measures if necessary.

How you can find one

If your general doctor or primary care physician doesn’t recommend or refer you to a specific podiatrist, start by asking people you trust. Next, check your insurance company’s list of preferred doctors. This is list of doctors who accept your insurance. Next, verify that the doctor or doctors whom you’re considering are board-certified by the .

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Physical therapist

Physical therapist

Physical therapist

A physical therapist is a highly trained and licensed medical professional that provides many different types of services. Physical therapists work with people of all ages, sizes, and abilities.

Why you might need to see one

Physical therapists are needed for a variety of situations. You might find you need to see one more than once in your life and for different reasons.

Physical therapists may help people:

  • regain mobility
  • reduce pain
  • restore normal functions and capabilities
  • cope with the loss of a limb or the presence of a new limb

Many people will see a physical therapist routinely for a brief period. Once that period of treatment is over, you may not need those services anymore. If you find a physical therapist you like, however, be sure to go to that one again if the need arises.

How you can find one

If you need physical therapy following an accident or surgery, your primary doctor likely has a list of physical therapists they recommend. If they don’t or if you’d like another opinion, start by finding a list of physical therapists your insurance company covers. Next, compare that list with physical therapists certified with the . Ask friends and family members for recommendations, too. You may end up spending a lot of time with this medical professional, so take the time to find one you like and trust.

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Takeaway

Takeaway

You’ll have many medical encounters in your lifetime, and you’re likely to encounter a variety of medical professionals. If the time comes that you do need one of these doctors and you don’t know where to turn, don’t worry. A community of people can help connect you with your next healthcare professional.

Article resources
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) in Minnesota: Overview. Retrieved from
  • What is a neurologist? (n.d.) Retrieved from
  • What is a podiatrist? (n.d.) Retrieved from
  • Who are physical therapists? (2015, November 24). Retrieved from
  • Why see a dermatologist. (n.d.) Retrieved from
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