Hepatitis C: Your Healthcare Team
If you have hepatitis C, there are a number of medical professionals you may need to see to help treat your condition. Aside from the doctors trained to treat and prevent damage to your liver, you may seek out trained counselors for emotional support or social workers to help you navigate the healthcare system. Although you may not need to consult all the professionals on this list, it's a good idea to know who they are and how they might be able to help you.
Primary care physician (PCP): Your PCP is responsible for managing and coordinating your overall care. Usually an internist or family physician, your PCP will refer you to the specialists you need to see, and make sure they are all working together to bring you the best level of care.
Infectious disease physician: This doctor is specially trained to diagnose and treat all kinds of infectious diseases, including those caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
Hepatologist: This doctor specializes in liver disease. Most hepatologists are also gastroenterologists.
Gastroenterologist: Doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and conditions affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract work on problems with the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, gallbladder and liver.
Transplant surgeon: These surgeons are specially trained to move an organ or part of an organ from one body to another (or within the same body) to replace a damaged or missing organ. Liver failure from chronic hepatitis C is one of the most common reasons for liver transplants in the U.S.
Nurse practitioner: An Advanced Practice Nurse who can provide high-quality care and treatment to patients. They can diagnose and treat a variety of health problems and inform patients about lifestyle changes that can improve their health.
Physician assistant: Health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. They perform a comprehensive range of medical duties, from basic primary care to high-technology specialty procedures.
Nurses: Experienced in overall patient care, your nurses can help you understand your condition. They may also have valuable advice on how to follow through with your treatment and self-care.
Occupational therapist: Occupational therapists are trained to help you find ways to make your everyday life easier. If the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C are making it harder for you to go about your daily routine, an occupational therapist can show you new ways to do things to conserve your energy and improve your quality of life.
Psychologist: Aside from its physical challenges, hepatitis C can be emotionally difficult. Considering there may be a tough road ahead, you may be feeling sad, angry, confused or depressed. Meeting with a trained therapist or counselor can help you put things in perspective and cope with your feelings.
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation professionals: If you have hepatitis C, you should not consume alcohol because it could be toxic to your liver. IV drug users diagnosed with hepatitis C should not share needles or other drug paraphernalia with others, and should dispose of used needles properly to prevent the spread of the disease. Rehab professionals are specially trained to help those addicted to drugs and alcohol stop using.
Social worker: Meeting with a social worker is a good idea if hepatitis C has caused you financial or social hardships. It's also a good idea to consult a social worker if your having trouble paying for your medications. These professionals can not only guide you through the healthcare system, but also help you find essential services, such as childcare, home aids and transportation.