Pulmonary medicine is the subspecialty of internal medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and management of disorders of the respiratory system, including the lungs, upper airways, thoracic cavity, and chest wall. Although most common respiratory problems are treated by general internists and other specialty physicians, internists practicing pulmonary medicine (often referred to as “pulmonologists”) are frequently called upon to help diagnose unknown disorders and assist in managing difficult, unusual, or complicated diseases of the respiratory system.
Pulmonologists have expertise in structural, inflammatory, infectious, and neoplastic disorders of the lung parenchyma, pleura and airways, pulmonary vascular disease and its effect on the cardiovascular system, and detection and prevention of occupational and environmental causes of lung disease. Diseases commonly evaluated and treated by pulmonologists include asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), emphysema, lung cancer, interstitial and occupational lung diseases, complex lung and pleural infections including tuberculosis, pulmonary hypertension, and cystic fibrosis. Some pulmonologists focus on sleep-disordered breathing (such as sleep apnea) and may provide diagnostic and therapeutic services in sleep laboratories.
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