The respiratory system is in charge of providing oxygen to the body’s cells, and pulmonology is the area of medicine that focuses on the respiratory system’s health. Pulmonologists can treat a variety of conditions in both men and women. Here are the basics you need to know, including when you might need to see a pulmonologist.
What is a Pulmonologist?
Pulmonologists are medical specialists that diagnose and treat conditions affecting the respiratory system. They have expertise in the following types of respiratory disorders:
- • Infectious
- • Structural
- • Inflammatory
- • Neoplastic (related to a tumor)
In some cases, a pulmonologist’s practice extends into the cardiovascular system when conditions affecting the respiratory system spread to organs. Pulmonologists might work in their own office, or they might be part of a larger practice. They can also work in hospital settings and intensive care units.
Pulmonology is focused on the diagnosis and treatment of respiratory system disorders. Subspecialties of pulmonology include:
- • Interstitial lung disease (lung diseases marked by inflammation and scarring)
- • Interventional pulmonology (treating airway disorders, lung cancer and pleural diseases)
- • Lung transplantation
- • Neuromuscular disease (conditions occurring due to muscular failure)
- • Obstructive lung disease (narrowing or obstruction of the airway)
- • Sleep-disordered breathing
Pulmonologists must earn a four-year college degree and complete a four-year medical school program. They must also complete a three-year residency in internal medicine. After this, they complete a two- or three-year fellowship, which allows for specialized pulmonology training. Finally, they pass a specialty board certification exam to become licensed to practice.
Pulmonologists can treat a variety of conditions:
- • Bronchiectasis (when the lungs can’t clear mucus)
- Bronchitis (inflamed mucous membranes)
- • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (airflow blockage)
- • Emphysema (when lung alveoli are damaged)
- • Interstitial lung diseases (affect space and tissue around alveoli)
- • Occupational lung diseases (due to inhalation of dust, chemicals or proteins)
- • Obstructive sleep apnea (breathing slows or stops entirely during sleep)
Pulmonologists can perform large range of exams and tests to help diagnose lung-related issues:
- • CT scan: To view detailed images of bones, muscles, fat organs and blood vessels
- • Chest fluoroscopy: To view lung function
- • Chest ultrasound: To examine organs and chest structures
- • Lobectomy: To remove a lobe in the lungs
- • Pleural biopsy: To remove small tissue sample from the membrane surrounding the lungs (pleura)
- • Pulmonary function test
- • Pulse oximetry test: Oxygen saturation levels in blood
- • Transplantation: To remove diseased lung and replace it with a healthy lung
- • Thoracentesis: To remove air or fluid from around the lungs
- • Bronchoscopy: To examine airway for issues in trachea, lower airways, throat or larynx
- • Sleep studies: For sleep disorders like sleep apnea
When Should You See a Pulmonologist?
If you have unusual respiratory symptoms, you should first meet with your primary care doctor and have a medical exam performed. You may be then referred to a pulmonologist if:
- • You have difficulty breathing
- • You have a persistent cough
- • You cough up blood regularly
For more information on what a pulmonologist can do for you, speak to your doctor.
Our physicians are specialized in a variety of respiratory illnesses and work with your primary care physician to customize your treatment plan. Our specialists understand the connection between the lungs and other areas of medicine including cardiology and endocrinology.
“Faces of Healthcare: What Is a Pulmonologist?” Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pulmonologist#overview1
“What Is a Pulmonologist/Pulmonary Specialist?” HealthCommunities.com. http://www.healthcommunities.com/copd/what-is-pulmonary-specialist.shtml