Definition and Overview
Patients who have or are suspected of having an infection or infectious disease should consult a specialist to obtain a diagnosis and a customized treatment plan.
The visit is usually initiated by the patient, and may be performed by a family doctor, general physician or an infection specialist. Due to the progressive nature of infections (they can worsen and spread to other parts of the body rapidly) and the fact that most infections are contagious, patients should see a medical practitioner as soon as possible.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
An infection consultation is strongly recommended for all patients who are suffering or suspected of having an infection or an infectious disease, such as the following:
- Upper respiratory tract infection
- Lower respiratory tract infection
- Urinary tract infections
- Stomach and intestinal infections
- Ear infections
- Eye infections
- Skin infections
- Infection of the blood
Childhood infections, such as chickenpox or middle ear infection
Some of the most common illnesses caused by infection are:
- Strep throat
Depending on the cause, these infections may be:
It is also possible for people to become infected when they have a wound or have a surgical incision, which can act as a gateway for bacteria to enter the body.
Common signs of infection that warrant a consultation are the following:
- Pus drainage
- Mucus buildup
- Nasal congestion
- Skin redness
Infectious diseases also come in different types, depending on the means of transmission. Some are transmitted from person-to-person while some may be transmitted by animals or insects. Some examples of infectious diseases include:
- Hepatitis A/B
- Genital herpes/warts
- Japanese encephalitis
- Meningitis (infection of the spinal cord)
- Rotavirus or viral gastroenteritis
- Typhoid fever
While common infections can be treated by a general physician or family doctor, infectious diseases have to be referred to infectious disease specialists, or doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and containment of transmittable diseases.
At the end of the infection consultation, the patient should have a clear idea as to what kind of infection he has contracted, its cause and his treatment options.
How the Procedure Works
At the first sign of an infection, the patient should schedule an appointment with his family doctor or general physician. If the symptoms are severe, he can look directly for an infectious disease specialist, or can simply ask his family doctor for a referral.
The consultation usually takes place in an office, clinic, or hospital and begins with an assessment of the patient’s health, an evaluation of his medical and family history and examination of his symptoms. If the infection is visible, as with skin infections, an external physical examination will also be performed. If confirming the presence of an infection is impossible with an external examination, diagnostic tests will be ordered and these may include the following:
- Blood test
- Complete blood count
- Blood culture
- Urine tests
- Stool sample
- Lumbar puncture
- Imaging scans, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans
- Sputum testing
No single test can confirm an infection, so a number of these tests may be performed together. While some of these tests, such as imaging scans, can be done during the same visit if the doctor has access to the equipment used, some of them are usually done at a different time. The doctor will then call the patient in for a follow-up once the test results are ready.
Possible Risks and Complications
An infection consultation is a diagnostic appointment, and in many cases, tests are scheduled at a different time. Thus, the consultation itself is guaranteed safe.
Diagnostic tests to detect the presence of an infection or an infectious disease are also quite safe, although they carry certain risks. For example, lumbar puncture is known to cause pain, whereas imaging scans come with the risk of radiation exposure, although the risk is very minimal.
However, the benefits of seeking an infection consultation far outweigh its risks. After all, infections can worsen rapidly while infectious diseases can spread just as quickly. Thus, these consultations should not be delayed; otherwise, the patient may be at risk of serious complications, such as:
- Sepsis, which is when an infection spreads to the blood and all over the body
- The development of chronic health conditions
Death, in case of serious infections
To avoid these complications, patients should seek infection consultations promptly. This is particularly crucial if the patient is very young, very old or has existing autoimmune conditions that hamper their body’s capacity to fend off infections, putting them at a higher risk of developing potentially long-term and life-threatening complications.
Infectious Diseases Society of America
- European Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases