What does a gastroenterologist do?
A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in gastroenterology, the study of the human digestive system. This includes diseases that affect the stomach, intestines, and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Unlike primary care physicians, a gastroenterologist only deals with internal diseases of the gastrointestinal system and is highly specialized in his or her area. Examples of patients who need to see a gastroenterologist are those with Crohn’s disease or Celiac disease.
What is the difference between a gastroenterologist and a hepatologist?
Both are highly specialized doctors, and while there may be some overlap between the two, they are separate fields of medicine. As mentioned above, a gastroenterologist deals with diseases affecting the stomach and intestines. A hepatologist deals with diseases that affect the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. While they both specialize in internal medicine, they are considered to be different branches of medicine because they deal with different bodily systems.
Do I need a referral to see a gastroenterologist?
Yes. Because a gastroenterologist is a specialist, you will need a referral from your primary care physician to meet with one. Typically, if you experience repeated problems with the stomach and intestines, your primary care physician will recommend that you see a gastroenterologist because you may be suffering from a disease that is outside the scope of the primary care physician’s knowledge. Since a gastroenterologist focuses only on the gastrointestinal tract, he or she would be able to diagnose and treat your symptoms.