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Finding Dr. Right

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Your ideal dermatologist is: Board certified and has experience treating your condition (some skin docs are extremely specialized). To find one by location and expertise, try the American Academy of Dermatology's "Find a Dermatologist" tool at aad.org.

Your health complaint: High cholesterol, diabetes, weight loss...anything diet-related
Your options: Nutritionist or dietitian
Your best bet: Dietitian

"Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist—the title is completely unregulated," warns Ruth Frechman, R.D., a registered dietitian in Burbank, CA, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. That means the "nutritionist" working at your gym may be anyone from a highly qualified expert to an amateur with no formal training or education whatsoever. The title "registered dietitian" (R.D.), on the other hand, is reserved for people who have completed a four-year degree in nutrition, plus 900 supervised clinical hours, and have passed a national exam, qualifying them to help manage medical conditions through diet. Some states require that R.D.'s also be licensed.

In general, be wary of anyone who sells dietary products, insists high-dose vitamins or minerals are necessary, or pushes a particular brand. That's not to say that an omega-3 fatty acid or another supplement is never helpful, says Frechman. But the only thing your dietitian should be trying to sell you on is the benefits of healthier eating.

Your ideal dietitian is: Registered, state licensed where required, and specializes in your particular dietary issue, whether it's high cholesterol, diabetes, or weight control. Log on to the American Dietetic Association Website (eatright.org) to search for one by location and area of expertise.

Your health complaint: Joint pain
Your options: Orthopedist or rheumatologist
Your best bet: Depends on the source of the pain

If your pain is due to exercise, overuse, or injury, see an orthopedist. He or she will perform a physical exam, order any necessary diagnostic tests, and may prescribe pain meds, physical therapy, or surgery. However, if you're experiencing unexplained pain in multiple joints, visible joint swelling, or morning stiffness, you could have an inflammatory disorder and should see a rheumatologist. They're trained to recognize and treat tough-to-identify joint conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. "Rheumatologists have to be medical detectives, because so many of the diseases that we treat are obscure," says Neil Birnbaum, M.D., president of the American College of Rheumatology.

Your ideal orthopedist is: Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (see abos.org/directory.aspx) and specializes in the joint causing you pain.
Your ideal rheumatologist is: Certified in rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine (check out "Who is Certified" at abim.org).

How to Manage Your PCP

Every doctor is busy, but it's crucial for your health that your primary care physician (PCP) be someone you can rely on. If yours perpetually runs late, or demonstrates any of the following behaviors, it's time to switch docs, says Kevin Soden, M.D., author of Special Treatment: Ten Ways to Get the Same Special Health Care Your Doctor Gets .

Red flag: The doctor has limited office hours and/or tells you to go to the ER if anything comes up while he's off-duty.
Red flag: The wait for a checkup (a well visit) is several months.
Red flag: He won't even discuss a new treatment you've read about.
Red flag: He refuses to provide patient references.
Red flag: His support staff treats you rudely more than once.

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