Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus. Technically, since hepatitis C is an infectious disease, one might think that an infectious disease specialist (a subspecialty of internal medicine) would be the appropriate medical specialist to see.
Hepatitis C is more than a simple infection, however. It usually is a chronic infection that often is associated with important damage to the liver. Because of this fact, patients with hepatitis C are most commonly referred for treatment to a specialist in gastroenterology (also a subspecialty of internal medicine).
Gastroenterologists specialize in diseases of all of the gastrointestinal organs including the liver. Moreover, there are gastroenterologists who specialize in diseases of the liver including hepatitis C. These specialists are called hepatologists. ("Hepar" means liver.)
Whether patients with hepatitis C are treated by gastroenterologists or hepatologists depends on the expertise (gastroenterology or hepatology) available in the community, the severity of any associated liver disease, and the complexity of the contemplated treatment.
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