Upon receiving a diagnosis of hepatitis C, a whole host of emotions and questions may emerge. Many wonder about the next steps and who they should turn to for care. We asked our expert, Sue, what kind of doctors can treat hepatitis C patients, and here’s what she had to say.
Gastroenterologists, Hepatologists, and Infectious Disease doctors are the specialists who most often treat hepatitis C patients. The gastroenterologist is an internist who has extra training in diseases of the digestive system, which includes the liver. A hepatologist has a focus on liver disease. However, there is no board certification in hepatology. The majority of hepatologists are also gastroenterologists with an extra 2-3 years in fellowship programs focusing on the liver. An Infectious Disease doctor has special training in all infections and has training in the use of antibiotics to cure disease, as well as the adverse events that may occur from antibiotic use. He has a unique understanding of immunology, as well.
Since the development and approval of direct acting antivirals, many patients may be adequately treated by other physicians. There are also places in our country that do not have specialists within a comfortable distance for the patient to travel. If the hepatitis C patient does not have a complicated case of hepatitis, doesn’t have late stage cirrhosis or end stage disease, he may be handled by a PCP or even an addiction specialist. The new era of treatments have resulted in a shorter duration of treatment, minimal side effects, and a higher rate of cure. If the treating physician runs into a problem with a patient he is only a phone call away from a specialist.