By Nina L. Paul, PhD from "Living with Hepatitis C For Dummies"
After your diagnosis with hepatitis C, your primary care provider (PCP) will most likely refer you to a liver specialist, who has experience in treating hepatitis C. Hepatitis C virus primarily causes liver disease, so you’re looking for a doctor who knows the liver (and hep C) inside out. The physician specialists who treat hepatitis C may be called one of the following:
* Gastroenterologist: Specializing in the many diseases of the digestive tract, gastroenterologists vary in the amount of experience they have with liver diseases or hepatitis C. You may see the letters GI in connection with gastroenterologists, which comes from the term gastrointestinal.
* Hepatologist: This type of doctor is a liver specialist who in many cases is also a gastroenterologist.
* Infectious-disease specialist: Hepatitis C is a virus infection, so you may be referred to an infectious-disease doctor who has experience treating hepatitis C.
Most people with hepatitis C visit a gastroenterologist or hepatologist, but some folks, especially those with an HIV co-infection, may go to an infectious-disease doctor who has expertise in hepatitis C treatment.
Because gastroenterology is such a large field, different residency programs vary in how much time they devote to liver diseases or hepatitis C. Some doctors take additional training, called a fellowship, in hepatology, which is specific training in liver diseases.
The American Association for the Study of Liver Disease has a training fellowship for nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs), so you may find an NP or PA with specialist hepatology training.