What is a Pulmonologist?
Pulmonary medicine is a subspecialty of internal medicine that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions that affect the lungs and respiratory tract. Pulmonology often involves taking care of patients who need life support and mechanical ventilation.
A pulmonologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases of the chest, particularly pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and complicated chest infections.
What does a Pulmonologist do?
Pulmonologists diagnose and treat conditions that affect the respiratory system in men and women. They are specifically trained in internal medicine, lungs, and the cardio-pulmonary system (which include the lungs, heart, blood vessels, and all the organs that help a person breathe). The airway includes the nose, mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli.
Pulmonologists have expertise in infectious, structural, inflammatory and neoplastic respiratory disorders. They are consulted by primary physicians when a patient shows symptoms of a lung problem which can include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, and a persistent cough. There are a variety of techniques involved when diagnosing lung diseases such as pulmonary function tests and medical imaging. Once a diagnosis has been given, treatments of pulmonary rehabilitation and/or medication ensue. Rehabilitation is for patients who have decreased respiratory function or show little sign of improvement with medicine.
Pulmonologists can pick from a number of therapies to treat respiratory disorders, including antiobiotics, steroids (that can come in pill or injection form), or through inhalers. Pulmonologists also encourage their patients to make lifestyle changes and teach them coping strategies to minimize their reliance on medications. In the advanced stages of emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other chronic illnesses, pulmonologists offer palliative care such as breathing machines and oxygen to their patients.
Some of the illnesses that fall under the care of a pulmonologist include lung cancer, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, sleep apnea and tuberculosis. The following are some other common conditions that pulmonologists also diagnose and treat:
Asthma - wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing
Bronchiectasis - damage and dilation (widening) of the large bronchial airways. About half of all cases in the United States today are caused by cystic fibrosis.
Bronchitis - Inflammation of the airways, usually caused by infection
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - COPD is a group of lung diseases involving airway inflammation, lung tissue damage, and limited airflow. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the most common forms of COPD.
Chronic Bronchitis - When a patient has had a cough with excessive mucus during most days of the month for at least three months.
Emphysema - Damage to the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, where the lungs are unable to completely deflate.
Interstitial Lung Disease - (ILD) includes a long list of chronic lung disorders. Breathlessness and a dry cough are common to many of these disorders. ILD is usually a progressive condition.
Occupational Lung Disease - Caused by exposure to irritating or toxic substances in the work environment.
Asbestosis - Progressive scarring of lung tissue caused by exposure to microscopic fibres of asbestos.
Byssinosis (Brown Lung Disease) - Obstruction of the small airways that results in severely impaired lung function. Common cause is dust from hemp, flax and/or cotton processing.
Farmer’s Lung - Allergic reaction caused by exposure to an organism that grows on hay, straw, grains, and other organic materials found on farms.
Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis - Acute or chronic inflammation of the airways caused by exposure to an inhaled allergen, such as mold, bacteria, or fungi.
Silicosis - A lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust in mines, foundries, blasting operations, and stone, clay and glass manufacturing.
Pulmonary Fibrosis - Thickening and scarring of the lungs, specifically in and around the small blood vessels and air sacs where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place.
Rheumatoid Lung Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis can also damage the lungs, causing inflammation of the lining of the lungs (pleuritis), accumulation of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion), rheumatoid nodules (small lumps) in the lungs, and scarring of the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis).
Sarcoidosis - Granulomas (tiny lumps of immune cells) that can grow and clump together in organs, affecting how these organs function. Sarcoidosis usually starts in the lungs or lymph nodes, but it may eventually affect other organs.
Pulmonologists perform exams and tests to help determine a lung-related diagnosis. These include:
- CT scan
- Chest Fluoroscopy
- Chest Ultrasound
- Pleural Biopsy
- Pulmonary Function Test
- Pulse Oximetry Test
- Sleep Study
What is the workplace of a Pulmonologist like?
A pulmonologist may work in their own office or as part of a multidisciplinary practice. They can also work in hospital settings, particularly in intensive care units.
The work schedule can vary greatly from one week to the next. This career depends greatly on the condition of the patients. Therefore, pulmonologists may have to consult with them at irregular hours. Many pulmonologists end up working 50 or 60 hours per week in order to keep up with their workload.
Pulmonologists are also known as:
Pulmonary Specialist Respiratory Physician Respirologist Pulmonary Physician Pneumologist Respiratory Doctor Lung Doctor