What Type of Doctor Treats Autoimmune Diseases?

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An autoimmune disease occurs when your body loses the ability to distinguish between normal and abnormal cells and begins to attack healthy cells by mistake. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, and there is no one doctor who can treat all kinds of autoimmune disease. Which doctor you need depends on which body systems are affected by your particular autoimmune disease. You will typically get a referral to a specialist from your primary care physician.

Female doctor discussing with patient in medical room at hospital

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Rheumatologist

A rheumatologist treats arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases that can cause your immune system to attack its joints, muscles, bones, or organs.

Rheumatologists treat the following autoimmune conditions:

After four years of medical school and three years of training in either internal medicine or pediatrics, rheumatologists devote an additional two to three years in specialized rheumatology training. Most rheumatologists who plan to treat patients choose to become board-certified. They take an exam conducted by the American Board of Internal Medicine to become certified.

Endocrinologist

Endocrinology is the study of diseases and conditions related to hormones. Physicians in this specialty are trained in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders related to abnormal levels of hormones in the body.

Endocrinologists treat many autoimmune conditions, including:

An endocrinologist is first trained in internal medicine, gynecology, or pediatrics before specializing in endocrinology. Their typical training includes four years of college, four years of medical school, three years of residency, and two to three years of fellowship in endocrinology. They become board-certified in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism through the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Gastroenterologist

Gastroenterologists are specialized in treating gastrointestinal and liver diseases, including colon polyps and cancer, hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), peptic ulcer disease, colitis, gallbladder and biliary tract disease, nutritional problems, irritable bowel syndrome, and pancreatitis.

The autoimmune conditions that a gastroenterologist treats include:

A gastroenterologist must first complete a three-year internal medicine residency, and is then eligible for additional specialized training through a fellowship in gastroenterology. This fellowship is generally two to three years long, so by the time gastroenterologists have completed their training, they have had five to six years of additional specialized education following medical school.

Fellowship training gives a physician the "FACG" or "FACP" title after their names, indicating that they are a fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology (FACG) or a fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP).

Dermatologist 

A dermatologist is a physician who has been specially trained to treat diseases that impact the skin, hair, and nails. Dermatologists may have a subspeciality, such as medical, surgical, cosmetic, or dermatopathology.

Autoimmune skin conditions that a dermatologist may treat include:

Dermatologists attend four years of medical school after getting a bachelor's degree (four years of college), and complete a three-year residency program in dermatology. After successfully completing residency training in dermatology, a dermatologist can become board-certified through the American Board of Dermatology, the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology, or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. 

Immunologist

An immunologist, more commonly referred to as an allergist, is a physician trained to diagnose and treat allergies, asthma, and other immunologic disorders such as primary immunodeficiency disorders. They specialize in diseases that affect the immune system.

The autoimmune conditions that an allergist or immunologist treats include primary immunodeficiencies and autoinflammatory syndromes.

After completing four years of medical school and graduating with a medical degree, physicians undergo three years of training in internal medicine or pediatrics and must pass the exam of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) or the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). Those interested in becoming an allergist or immunologist have at least an additional two years of study through a fellowship in an allergy or immunology training program.

To become board-certified in this specialty, the physicians must pass the certifying examination of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. They then achieve the rank of fellow within the AAAAI (FAAAAI).

A Word From Verywell

When you are looking for a provider to treat an autoimmune condition, you might be overwhelmed by the various facets of the process. If you have an ongoing autoimmune condition, were recently diagnosed with one, or suspect you may have one, you are not alone. Many people suffer from autoimmune conditions. You can still live a full and happy life with an autoimmune disease, and ongoing care and support from your specialist and your loved ones can ensure that you maintain the best quality of life possible.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Autoimmune diseases. Updated May 2, 2017.

  2. Ruggeri RM, Giuffrida G, Campennì A. Autoimmune endocrine diseases. Minerva Endocrinol. 2018 Sep;43(3):305-322. doi: 10.23736/S0391-1977.17.02757-2

  3. Emmrich J, Jaster R. Autoimmune diseases in gastroenterology. Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(29):4542-5. doi: 10.2174/138161212802502134

  4. American College of Gastroenterology. What is a gastroenterologist?

  5. American Academy of Dermatology. What is a dermatologist?

  6. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. What is an immunologist?