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Your Healthcare Team

A smiling group of medical professionals

To seek clinical care for your sickle cell symptoms, a first step may be seeing your hematologist or primary care provider. In addition to directly treating your symptoms, these doctors may refer you to other resources or health care professionals. These can include:

  • Hematologist: A hematologist is a doctor that specializes in diseases that affect the blood, bone marrow, and lymphatic system. A hematologist can diagnose, treat, and manage noncancerous and cancerous blood conditions. Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist is a doctor who specializes in lung conditions. This doctor can diagnose and treat diseases that affect the respiratory system including the lungs, nose, throat, airways, trachea, muscles, and blood vessels.
  • Cardiologist: A cardiologist is a doctor who treats and helps prevent diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. They can treat chest pain, high blood pressure, heart failure and conditions that affect the heart and its valves. Neurologist: A neurologist is a doctor who is an expert in the anatomy of the nervous system. A neurologist diagnoses, treats, and manages disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
  • Nephrologist: A nephrologist is a doctor who treats conditions affecting the kidneys, as well as kidney failure. These doctors can also assess and help to manage how other diseases like sickle cell disease, or conditions like high blood pressure affect the kidneys.
  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in treating and preventing disease of the eyes. They can perform yearly exams to make sure that you are not at risk of early vision loss.

Supplemental Resources:

  • Social Worker: A medical social worker helps you understand hospital procedures and medical plans, as well as helping you and your family with financial planning. The social worker will also facilitate communication between you, your family, and the healthcare team.
  • Patient Advocate: A patient advocate will help you with many steps of receiving care, such as finding the right doctors and choosing the best treatments. Medical billing advocates help you to understand your bills, contest inaccurate billing and negotiate for costs to be lowered.
  • Case Manager: Case managers oversee everything that happens from the moment of admission, during treatment and up to discharge from a hospital or another healthcare facility. These professionals provide guidance for long-term care, which includes decision-making about any important treatment options.
  • At-Home Care: There are other healthcare resources that can be utilized in the comfort of your own home. For example, you can hire a caregiver or a nurse. Caregivers do not perform medical care, instead, they help with activities of daily living and provide companionship for their clients. Nurses are licensed to perform skilled care. Nurses are usually in charge of implementing specific instructions set forth by a doctor. Nurses also monitor the progress of a patient as they recover from serious illness or injury.

Mental Health Resources:

  • Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in mental health. They can prescribe medications and may provide counseling. If you are experiencing debilitating mental health symptoms that are interfering with your daily life, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.
  • Group therapy: This is a type of therapy where a group of patients meet to discuss their mental health or other topics under the supervision of a therapist. Group therapy is an affordable and effective alternative or supplement to individual therapy. Some groups are geared toward specific issues, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse or obesity, while others focus on helping people deal with a variety of issues such as anger or low self-esteem.
  • Counselor: Counselors offer guidance to individuals, couples, families, and groups who are dealing with issues that affect their mental health and well-being. They work with clients on strategies to overcome obstacles and personal challenges that they are facing.
  • Psychologist: Practicing psychologists have the professional training and clinical skills to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues and mental health problems. People may see a psychologist because they are depressed, angry, or anxious for a long time. Or they want help for a chronic condition that is interfering with their lives or physical health.

Rehabilitation Resources:

  • Occupational Therapist: Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. Patients typically see an occupational therapist to regain function in their daily life, help manage chronic pain symptoms, and prevent future injury.
  • Physical Therapist: Physical therapists help injured, or ill people improve movement and manage pain. They use exercises, stretching maneuvers, hands-on therapy, and equipment to ease patients’ pain, help them increase their mobility, prevent further pain or injury, and facilitate health and wellness.
  • Respiratory Therapist: Respiratory therapists help improve outcomes for people with asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, lung trauma, and other diagnoses. They assess your breathing, recommend exercises, and monitor your progress.
  • Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP): SLPs can treat speech and cognitive-communication, as well as other disorders. Speech disorders occur when a person has difficulty producing speech sounds correctly or fluently (e.g., stuttering is a form of disfluency) or has problems with his or her voice or resonance. Cognitive-communication disorders include problems organizing thoughts, paying attention, remembering, planning, and/or problem-solving. If you are experiencing these symptoms, a speech-language pathologist may be helpful for you.
  • Chiropractor: Chiropractors seek to reduce pain and improve the functionality of patients as well as to educate them on how they can account for their own health via exercise, ergonomics, and other therapies. They use a variety of non-surgical treatments, such as spinal manipulation and mobilization, to treat patients with chronic pain. If you have a condition known as vasculitis or severe arthritis of your joints or spine, ask your doctor before having manipulation performed to ensure it is safe.
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