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What Is an Allopathic Doctor?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 23, 2021

Even if you aren’t familiar with the term, chances are that an allopathic doctor has helped you or treated you at some point during your lifetime. These medical professionals treat conditions, symptoms, or diseases using a range of drugs, surgery, or therapies.

Simply put, an allopathic doctor is one who practices modern medicine. Other terms for allopathic medicine include Western, orthodox, mainstream, or conventional medicine.

“Allo,” which comes from the Greek word for “opposite,” means to treat the symptom with its opposite, or remedy. Allopathic doctors may specialize in a number of areas of clinical practice and have the title of medical doctor, or MD.

What Does an Allopathic Doctor Do?

An allopathic doctor uses allopathic treatments to help people with a variety of conditions or diseases.

They may choose to focus on research or teaching throughout their career, in addition to choosing a field in which to specialize. You can find them in private practice, hospitals, medical centers, universities, or clinics.

Medical doctors practice allopathic medicine, as opposed to osteopathic medicine. More than 90% of doctors currently practicing in the United States practice allopathic medicine and have the title MD.

The other 10% are doctors of osteopathic medicine, or osteopaths. They’re similar to allopathic doctors in that they use a variety of modern medicine, technology, and drugs to treat people. However, they also incorporate holistic care and philosophy into their practice.

An allopathic doctor is certified to diagnose and treat illnesses, in addition to performing surgery and prescribing medications. An allopathic doctor can get licensed to perform their duties in any of the 50 states of the United States.

Education and Training

All doctors who practice allopathy follow a similar path. First, they complete an undergraduate degree in a related field. Next, the candidate receives a satisfactory score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and successfully completes four years or medical school.

After medical school, an allopathic doctor completes a residency program to get hands-on training alongside medical professionals. Depending on the specialty, a residency program can last from 3 to 7 years.

Some specialties in allopathy include:

The American Board of Medical Specialties recognizes 24 board-certified areas of specialties in allopathy. Within these specialties are many other subspecialties that an allopathic doctor may choose to focus on.

Reasons to See an Allopathic Doctor

You may visit an allopathic doctor for a number of reasons. You might go when you have symptoms that interfere with your daily life or well-being. Examples include:

Cold and flu symptoms

Everyone gets the common cold now and then, but there are times when your symptoms are bad enough for you to seek medical attention. If you have these symptoms, it may be time to visit an allopathic doctor:

  • A fever of 101.3 or higher
  • Fever that lasts 5 days or more or keeps coming back
  • You feel short of breath or experience wheezing
  • Sinus pain, headaches, earaches, and a serious sore throat

Other Common Symptoms

You should also seek out allopathic care if you have any of the following ongoing symptoms. While many are common in the short term, these symptoms may be signs of a larger problem if they don’t go away.

  • Digestive problems like:
    • Constant heartburn
    • Trouble swallowing
    • Severe belly pain
    • Ongoing constipation
    • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days
    • Blood in your poop
    • Poop that’s black and tar-like
  • Back pain that’s:
    • Constant and spreads down your legs
    • Accompanied by sweating, fever, swelling, or redness on your back
  • Period problems such as:
    • Severe cramps 
    • Irregular cycles
    • Bleeding between cycles
    • No cycle for more than 3 months

These are just a few examples of when it might be time to get allopathic care. An allopathic doctor is committed to helping people and improving their health. They’re there to listen, provide care, and help you improve your overall well-being.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Board of Medical Specialties: “Specialty and Subspecialty Certificates.”

American College of Surgeons: “How many years of postgraduate training do surgical residents undergo?”

Columbia College: “Allopathic and Osteopathic Medicine.”

ExploreHealthCareers.org: “Allopathic Physician (M.D.).”

FamilyDoctor.org: “Deciding When to See a Doctor.”

Johns Hopkins University: “ALLOPATHIC MEDICINE (M.D).”

Mayo Clinic: “Common cold.”

TransformingHealth.org: “Osteopathic vs. Allopathic Medicine explained.”

UC Santa Cruz: “Compare/Contrast MD and DO.”

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