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What type of Doctor Should I Go To?

Two of the most commonly asked questions regarding doctors and lymphedema is:

  • 1.) What type of doctor diagnosis lymphedema?
  • 2.) What type of doctor treats lymphedema?

Unfortunately, because lymphology or lymphatic science is not a recognized or distinct medical subspecialty, there is no particular type of doctor who would be automatically good to go for for either treatment or diagnosis.

However, what I have found is that there are particular specialty doctors that might more readily recognize lymphedema than others.

These are:

  • 1.) Vascular Surgeons
  • 2.) Dermatologists
  • 3.) Oncologists
  • 4.) Plastic Surgeons
  • 5.) Physiatrists
  • 6.) Infectious Disease

For treating lymphedema, the same principal applies, with one exeption. It seems that many of the doctors who focus on lymphedema and know how to treat it are physiatrists. Two notable ones in this regard would be Dr. Paula Stewart of Birmingham, Alabama and Dr. Kathleen Francis of New Jersey.

I do also strongly recommend, once you achieve a diagnosis, or forming your own “lymphedema medical team.” The doctors and healthcare providers you should have would be:

  • 1.) Your primary care doctor.
  • 2.) An infectious disease doctor (for those horrid cellulitis spells).
  • 3.) A wound doctor, if you have a persistent problem with wounds and/or ulcers.
  • 4.) An oncologist (of course should you have cancer).
  • 5.) Certified lymphedema therapist.

In finding a doctor you will want to know how to choose a primary care doctor in terms of understanding lymphedema and in terms of their willingness to find the additional treatment resources and help you might need.

The following list will give you an idea of the various types of doctors and medical specialty definitions.

Types of Doctors - Specialty Definitions


Uses procedures adapted from Chinese medicine to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes.

Addiction Medicine:

Works with patients who have substance abuse disorders. Specializes in prevention, diagnosis, treatment of withdrawal, medical or psychiatric complications, relapse, and the monitoring of recovery.

Adolescent Medicine:

The specialty of physicians with the experience and training to help young people meet the medical, psychological and social challenges that occur during the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Aerospace Medicine:

Focused on the health of the crew, passengers, and support personnel of air and space vehicles.


A multidisciplinary effort that’s often led by primary-care physicians working in cooperation with case managers, registered nurses, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, and others. The goal: Improve the health and comfort of AIDS/ HIV patients by addressing their physical and emotional needs.


Concerned with the evaluation, diagnosis, and management of disorders involving the immune system, including asthma, eczema, allergic reactions, problems related to autoimmune disease, organ transplantation, and immune system malignancies.


The science of applying anesthetics and managing pain during medical procedures. Anesthesiologists are physicians who are primarily concerned with administering the various drugs that keep patients from feeling pain during surgery and other procedures and childbirth.

Asthma, Allergy & Immunology:

The study and treatment of the body's reaction to foreign substances. The ailments treated by immunologists include hay fever, asthma, hives and other abnormal responses to allergens that range from dust and food to animals and chemicals.


Focused on identifying, diagnosing, and treating hearing disorders.


Focused on the care of obese patients

Breast-Cancer Surgery:

Surgeons specializing in cancer of the breast are skilled in a number of surgical options, ranging from mastectomies to sentinel-node biopsies. They also work with a multidisciplinary team that may include oncologists, radiologists, pharmacists and others to determine the best strategy for follow-up treatment and care.

Cardiac Surgery:

Highly trained and certified cardiac surgeons correct and repair multiple heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and congenital heart disease. Many cardiac surgeons specialize in minimally invasive surgeries that are performed through a small incision and require less recovery time and improve patient safety and comfort.


The study of the heart. Cardiologists often specialize in a particular area, but collectively they diagnose and treat patients suffering from diseases of the heart, lungs and blood vessels; perform heart surgeries; and educate patients on preventing heart problems and living a heart-healthy lifestyle.


Therapeutic method of treatment based on interaction of the spine and nervous system. Note - these are not medical doctors designated by MD, but instead commonly designated by D.C.

Clinical Laboratory Immunology:

Focused on conducting tests of specimens to determine a patient’s general health. Results are used by physicians to diagnose illnesses and determine proper treatment.

Clinical Pathology:

Concerned with diagnosing a disease based on laboratory analysis of body fluids.

Colorectal Surgery:

The treatment of diseases of the intestinal tract, anus and rectum through surgery. Colorectal surgeons not only operate to remove malignancies, they strongly encourage the testing that can lead to early detection. If caught early, colorectal cancer can be cured. Colorectal surgeons also deal with hemorrhoids, polyps and other ailments.

Critical Care:

Emergency departments and special-care units offer the services of highly trained physicians and nurses to provide minute-to-minute care to critically ill patients and patients whose lives are in danger.


Focused on the diagnosis of disease through the study of cells, including pap tests. This specialist is a consultant to all medical specialists.


The medical field devoted to the study and treatment of disorders and diseases of the skin. Dermatologists help patients deal with a range of concerns, from warts to acne to skin cancers.


Focused on the laboratory study of skin samples.


Specialists in this field of medicine provide education in diabetes management, along with other tools to help patients take control of their diabetes and prevent it from interfering with active, healthy lives.

Diagnostic Radiologist:

Radiology Uses radiant energy in diagnosis and therapeutic procedures. Includes imaging through X-rays, ultrasound, etc.

Emergency Medicine:

Emergency medicine specialists provide urgently needed treatment for injured and ill patients to prevent a worsening of the condition, disability or death. This treatment and care usually takes place in a hospital emergency room.


This branch of medicine focuses on the body’s “ductless” glands and how they function. Endocrinologists are concerned with the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands, among others, as well as nutritional disorders, sexual disorders, and problems such as diabetes and hypertension.

Endovascular Surgical Neuroradiology:

ESNR specialists focus on less invasive, catheter-based techniques to treat patients who are unable to undergo conventional surgery or in situations where no conventional surgery options exist.


Neurologists specializing in this field of care help patients living with epilepsy and other seizure disorders live full and active lives. Treatment can involve surgery or medications, or can be a combination of both.

Family Practice:

Family practice physicians provide comprehensive medical care with an emphasis on caring for all members of the family. Family practice builds upon a core of knowledge derived from other disciplines, primarily pediatrics, internal medicine, OB/GYN, geriatrics, surgery and psychiatry. The family practitioner plays the role of personal physician.


The study and treatment of conditions of the digestive system. A gastroenterologist diagnoses and treats disorders of the stomach, intestines, bowels and other structures, such as the liver, gall bladder, pancreas and esophagus. Gastroenterologists focus on maladies that include ulcers, jaundice, hepatitis and cancer.

General Practice

Concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of disease by both medical and surgical methods, regardless of organ system, body region, or patient age.

General Surgery:

The study and practice of all types of surgical operations. General surgeons perform a number of procedures aimed at treating a range of diseases and conditions, including cancer, appendicitis, tonsillitis and hernia.


The study of aging and the treatment of problems in the elderly. Geriatric-care specialists consider a range of illnesses and conditions as they specifically affect the aged. These physicians frequently address the psychological and social aspects of aging, in addition to the physical aspects.

Gynecologic Oncology:

The study, diagnosis and treatment of tumors and cancers in the female reproductive system, including breast care.


The study and care of the female reproductive system, including breast care. Gynecologists provide routine care for women and treat a full spectrum of illnesses that particularly affect women.

Gynecology Oncology

Focused on gynecologic cancer and its complications.

Hand Surgery:

Surgeons in this specialty are trained to diagnose and repair damaged and injured hands. The conditions they treat range from carpal tunnel syndrome to sport-related injuries and the reattachment of severed fingers.

Head and Neck Surgery:

Surgeons who are trained in head and neck surgery generally have subspecialties in areas that include otology (diseases of the ear), rhinology (diseases of the nose) and/or laryngology (diseases of the throat and larynx).


Neurologists who specialize in treating victims of chronic headaches and migraines and offer their patients multiple treatment options, including the latest medications, physical therapy, biofeedback and psychological counseling.


The medical specialty concerned with blood and the blood system. A hematologist treats blood diseases such as cancer, lymphoma, serious anemia and sickle cell disease.


Specifically trained to treat diseases of the blood and cancer.


Concerned with treating liver, gallbladder, and pancreas disorders.

Holistic Medicine:

Focuses on the whole person and looks at physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being prior to determining a treatment.


Provides general medical care of hospital patients. Responsible for patient care and research. Coordinates with patient’s primary care/referring physician.


Focused on the body’s ability to combat infectious or irritating substances that threaten it with disease.

Infectious Diseases:

Diseases, often communicable, that are caused by the growth of various microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses. A specialist in infectious diseases diagnoses and treats patients affected by illnesses ranging from pneumonia to salmonella to AIDS.

Infertility Medicine:

A field of treatment and research aimed at helping individuals and couples who want children but are having fertility problems or are otherwise having trouble conceiving. Procedures might include artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization, where an egg is removed from a woman’s ovary, fertilized in a lab and then placed in the woman’s uterus.

Internal Medicine:

A broad-based medical field in which physicians rely on their knowledge of major organs to diagnose and treat patients. Internists treat a variety of afflictions, from colds and heart problems to infectious diseases. Internists often serve as a patient's primary doctor, coordinating all that person's health care.

Interventional Cardiology:

Focuses on catheter-based treatment of heart disease including angioplasty, valvuloplasty, and coronary thrombectomy.

Focused on various aspects of medicine and the law, including the use of medicine to solve criminal cases, medical malpractice, and government regulation.


Please note there is no official clinical designation of lymphologist. The term may be used in a couple ways. First, for those of us with lymphedema, we often refer to doctors who are treating or who have extesnive knowledge of lymphedema as lymphologists. We use this so that we might share with other lymphedema patients doctors we know that can help us.

The other way I have seen it used more and more is by doctors who have sudden;y realized that they may get additional patients by referring to themselves are lymphologist. Be very careful if you see this. I have found a number of doctors claiming to be experts in lymphedema, calling themselves lymphologists as anything but.

Do your research on this. If need be, please email me at the email address below. Pat - page editor

Medical Oncology:

Focused on the diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancer and other benign and malignant tumors.

Medical Toxicology:

Concerned with treating patients who have been exposed to poisons including medications, adverse drug reactions, environmental toxins, industrial chemicals, or bioterrorism agents.

Midwife (CNM):

A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a registered nurse who has completed an advanced course of study and is certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. A midwife is trained to care for women during pregnancy, labor and the postnatal period; conduct normal deliveries; and to care for newborn babies under normal circumstances.

Movement Disorders:

Neurologists specializing in movement disorders are trained to diagnose and treat conditions of the nerves and muscles that may prevent such simple functions as walking across a room with ease or drinking a glass of water without spilling. These disorders include tremors, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s chorea and Tourrette’s syndrome.


A field of medicine devoted to the care and treatment of infants up to six weeks old. Neonatologists concentrate on the full spectrum of medical problems that can affect newborn babies.


The study and care of the kidneys and urinary system. Nephrologists treat kidney disorders, diabetes, renal failure and other illnesses. Treatments can range from dialysis to kidney transplants.


The study and treatment of diseases of the nervous system. A neurologist assists patients who have stroke complications, head injuries, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and other afflictions of the brain and spinal cord.


Specialists in this branch of medicine offer the experience and the resources to help people with brain-related visual problems – as well as eye-movement problems – find hope for improved eyesight. Therapies range from botulinum toxin injection to nonsurgical treatment for facial spasms and excessive blinking.


Specifically trained in using digital angiography, MRI, CT, PET, ultrasound, and X-rays to evaluate the brain, head, neck, and spine.


Neurosurgeons specialize in surgically treating diseases and disorders of the nervous system. The nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord (central nervous system), along with the nerves of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nervous system).

Nuclear Cardiology:

Focuses on using small amounts of radioactive substances and non-invasive techniques to assess the health of a patient’s heart.

Nuclear Medicine:

A specialty that uses radioactive substances and sophisticated diagnostic equipment to determine a variety of conditions and diseases. The equipment used in nuclear medicine – including MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) – reveals the inner workings of the body and its organs.


Concerned with food requirements and the effects of nutrients.

Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN):

OB/GYN is the field of medicine devoted to conditions specific to women. Obstetrics is the care of a woman during pregnancy and during and after childbirth. Gynecology is the study and care of the female reproductive system. An OB/GYN specialist combines these two disciplines to provide comprehensive care for women.

Occupational Medicine:

Focused on the health of workers, the ability to perform work, and physical and chemical environments of the workplace.


Medical: Medical oncologists are specialists in using various medications to treat and manage patients with cancer. This includes the use of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells, painkillers to manage cancer pain, and drugs that will eliminate or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Oncology – Radiation:

Radiation oncology is the field of medicine that uses therapeutic applications of radiation to manage cancer and other diseases. Radiation oncologists determine the type of radiation that will be used, as well as the amount or dose, and the number and length of treatments.


The medical specialty devoted to care of the eye and the treatment of diseases that affect eyes and vision. An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats abnormalities of the eye and performs surgery on the eye. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors and are different from optometrists (who test vision and prescribe corrective lenses) and opticians (who make or sell corrective eyewear).


Focuses on vision, visual systems, and the health of the eyes.

Oral/Maxillofacial Surgery:

The branch of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries and deformities of the teeth, mouth and jaw. An oral surgeon removes wisdom teeth, repairs broken jaws and treats a range of other conditions. Specialists in this field are also called dental surgeons.

Orthopedic Foot & Ankle:

Concerned with the medical and surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of the foot and ankle.

Orthopedic Reconstructive Surgery:

Focused on surgical replacement of joints, such as knee and hip.

Orthopedic Spine Surgery:

Concerned with surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of the spine.

Orthopedic Surgery:

The medical field concerned with the prevention and correction of muscular or skeletal injuries and abnormalities. Orthopedic surgeons treat complex conditions and injuries as well as broken bones, severe muscle sprains, and knee and other joint injuries. They also perform joint replacements.


Focuses on using conventional treatment methods, as well as placing emphasis on body, mind, and spirit.

Other Specialty:

A specialty other than those defined.


The medical and surgical care of the ears, nose, throat, respiratory, and upper alimentary systems. Also called Otolaryngology.

Otolaryngology (ENT):

A division of medical science that focuses on the ears, nose and throat (ENT). Otolaryngologists diagnose and treat disorders from the shoulders up, with the exception of the eyes and brain. Conditions they may deal with include hearing loss, tonsillitis and nasal obstructions.


An otologist is a specialist in the anatomy and structure of the ear, and how to treat diseases of the ear.

Pain Management:

Physicians and other pain experts choose from an extensive series of diagnostic tests to precisely identify the source of a patient’s pain. Treatment and management possibilities are wide ranging and include physical therapy, behavioral therapy, biofeedback and pain-relieving devices that are implanted under the skin.


The study of the nature and causes of disease. A pathologist examines body tissues to diagnose of diseases, and to determine the cause of various conditions, including death. There are several subspecialties in pathology, including chemical pathology, forensic pathology, hematology pathology and neuropathology.

=====Pediatric Allergy Concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of allergies in children.

Pediatric Cardiology:

Concerned with the care of children with cardiovascular problems.

Pediatric Critical Care:

Concerned with the care of critically ill children in an ICU environment.

Pediatric Emergency Medicine:

Concerned with the immediate decisions and actions required to prevent further disability or death of a child.

Pediatric Endocrinology:

Focused on care of children with diseases related to abnormalities in the endocrine glands, including diabetes mellitus, growth disorders, early or later puberty, birth defects, etc.

Pediatric Gastroenterology:

Focused on disorders of the digestive system of infants, children, and adolescents.

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology:

Focused on the care of children with blood or cancerous diseases.

Pediatric Internal Medicine:

Focused on the long-term relationship with a patient. Trained to provide care for newborns, children, adolescents, and adults. Physicians are typically certified in a Med/Peds program.

Pediatric Neurology:

Concerned with the care of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system of children.

Pediatric Ophthalmology:

Concerned with providing comprehensive care of the eye and vision in children.

Pediatric Psychiatry:

Focused on mental, addictive, and emotional disorders of children.

Pediatric Pulmonology:

Concerned with the care of diseases and disorders of the lungs of children.

Pediatric Radiology:

Focused on the pediatric application of imaging technologies.


The field of medicine dedicated to the care of infants, children and teenagers. Doctors in this field are called pediatricians. They are often the first doctors children see, and they concentrate on preventing illness and treating children for a variety of conditions, including sore throats, earaches and infectious diseases.

Pediatric Specialties:

Usually, a family physician or pediatrician will address the health problems of children. However, when there is a serious illness or injury, a child may need care from a pediatric specialist – a physician with advanced training and expertise in a particular area of medicine. Board-certified pediatric specialists provide medical services in areas ranging from cardiology and infectious diseases to neurology, orthopedics and surgery.


Focused on providing care either immediately before or after birth.


A branch of medicine dealing with medical and biological issues that affect the birth of a child. Perinatology combines obstetrics, gynecology and neonatology, and includes treatment of a fetus or a newborn and the mother.

Physical Medicine/Rehab:

Concerned with the maximal restoration of physical, psychological, social, vocational function, and alleviation of pain for patients with impairments or disabilities.


A physiatrist is a physician who specializes in physical medicine, which is the curing of injuries and disease by natural methods. Measures that are used include physical therapy, massage, exercise, light and heat.

Physical Rehabilitation:

Physicians and therapists who specialize in physical rehabilitation help patients who’ve had a stroke or serious injury return to home, work or school. The goal of therapy is to restore lost function through hands-on treatment, exercise and patient education.

Plastic/Reconstructive Surgery:

The repair, restoration or reconstruction of different parts of the body. Plastic and reconstructive surgeons not only perform elective cosmetic surgery to improve appearance, they also repair and reconstruct the facial features and bodies of patients with conditions caused by burns, injuries, diseases and congenital deformities.


The study, prevention and treatment of problems of the foot. A podiatrist may prescribe corrective devices and medication, or recommend physical therapy. Podiatrists attend colleges of podiatric medicine and graduates are doctors of podiatric medicine (DPM). Podiatrits with advanced training also do various types of foot surgery.

Primary Care:

In the past people relied on family doctors for everything from broken bones and the common cold to the delivery of babies. Family practitioners knew the medical history of the entire family because they treated both the children and the parents. Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) are bringing this tradition back. Instead of specializing in a specific area of medicine, PCPs help patients maintain overall health by focusing on preventive care. Some, but not all, insurance companies require patients to chose a Primary Care Physician. Check with your insurance company to see if you’re required to select a PCP.

Prostate Care:

Cancer or other conditions affecting the prostate may be treated by surgeons, cancer specialists and/or urologists using a wide range of therapies. Depending on the specific problem, a course of treatment can involve everything from surgery and medications to high-dose radiation.


The diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Psychiatrists are physicians who prescribe appropriate medication and do therapy to treat of a variety of conditions, from depression to schizophrenia.


Psychologists deal with mental processes – both normal and abnormal – and their effects upon human behavior. Psychologists typically have a doctorate degree, but are not medical doctors and do not prescribe medications.

Pulmonary Critical Care:

Concerned with caring for patients with life-threatening pulmonary illnesses, such as COPD, asthma, emphysema, lung cancer, and pneumonia.

Pulmonary Medicine:

The field of medicine devoted to the study and treatment of diseases of the respiratory system. Pulmonary specialists – called pulmonologists – treat pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, cancer and other disorders of the lungs and respiratory system.

Radiation Oncology:

Deals with the therapeutic applications of radiant energy and the study and management of cancers and other


The use of radioactive equipment, including X-ray machines, to diagnose and treat diseases and injuries. Specialists in this field are called radiologists.


The study and care of the joints and the muscular and skeletal systems. Rheumatologists treat a range of conditions, from athletic injuries to arthritis, lupus and rheumatic fever.

Reproductive Endocrinology:

Focused on the problems related to endocrinology and infertility.

Sleep Disorders:

The field of medicine devoted to the study and treatment of disruptions in sleeping patterns. Specialists in this field work with patients to overcome such conditions as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

Sports Medicine:

The field of medicine devoted to athletic injuries. Doctors specializing in sports medicine help patients prevent and recover from a range of injuries – from sprained knees and back strains to broken bones and torn ligaments – suffered while engaging in sports activities. Many sports medicine doctors also help design athletic training equipment and training methods.

Surgical Oncology:

Focused on the surgical management of malignant tumors.

Thoracic Surgery:

The study and practice of surgery on the chest cavity and rib cage, including the heart, lungs and esophagus. Thoracic surgeons treat patients with lung cancer, coronary diseases, aneurysms and heart diseases.


Surgeons specializing in organ transplants take a multidisciplinary approach to surgery and follow-up care that addresses all of patient’s physical and psychological needs. Patients receive an extensive orientation prior to transplantation, which can involved the kidneys, liver, heart and other organs.

Trauma Surgery:

Deals with the treatment of wounds and injuries through surgical methods.

Urgent Care:

Specifically trained in providing treatment of non-emergency illnesses and injuries, such as sore throats, ear infections, minor cuts and bruises.


The study and treatment of the male and female urinary tracts and the male genital tract. Urologists diagnose and treat disorders of the urinary tract, prostate and bladder.

Vascular & Interventional Radiology:

Focused on using images and minimally invasive procedures for diagnostic or treatment purposes

Vascular Surgery:

The focus is on surgical solutions to diseases of the body’s blood vessels, including the heart and lymph systems. Vascular surgeons treat patients for lymphatic diseases, strokes, aneurysms, varicose veins and other conditions.

Women’s Health:

Specifically trained to provide diagnosis and treatment related to women’s health issues.


Swedish Medical Center - Seattle, Washington

MCH Strategic Data

External Links on Types of Doctors


National health Service - United Kingdom

Types of Doctors/Areas of Medicine

There are more than 60 specialties - each is unique but there are many characteristics which are common. You will need to work as a part of a multi-disciplinary team in virtually every specialty. Some require particular skills, such as an ability to make decisions in life-threatening situations or confidence with computers. Many require an interest in teaching or research and some require particular manual dexterity.

For listings and articles see:

NHS Choices

Google Directory of Medical Specialties

Links to each field


Google Directory of Medical Specialties

United Kingdom

Links to each field


Which Medical Specialist For You?

American Board of Medical Specialties®

Life & Health Library

Physician Specialists


Lymphedema People Support Groups

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