About Pulmonologist Speciality

A pulmonologist is a medical doctor that specializes in the treatment of diseases and disorders that affect the respiratory tract. This includes diseases and problems with the lungs, chest and airways. They also treat patients that have sleep disorders. Pulmonologists typically receive patients that have been referred to them by their primary care physician for treatment of problems or disorders that they may be having with their respiratory tract. This can include problems with breathing, airway problems and problems with the lungs. After going through medical history of a patient, pulmonologist will then perform a variety of tests to determine the scope of the problem that the patient is having. This may include imaging the lungs with diagnostic equipment or performing a routine exam. Once the patient has been diagnosed they will come up with a treatment plan for the patient. This may involve the use of oral or inhalant medications, certain types of treatments, oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation. If there is a need for surgery, the pulmonologist will refer the patient to a surgeon. They may perform follow ups with patients and update their referring physician on the progress of their disease or dysfunction.

A pulmonologist is a trained medical professional who diagnoses and treats diseases related to the respiratory system in men, women and children. Pulmonologists specialise in infectious, structural, inflammatory and neoplastic respiratory disorders. Asthma, bronchiectasis, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung diseases, occupational lung diseases, obstructive sleep apnoea are some of the medical conditions that a pulmonologist provides treatment for. 

In order to become a certified pulmonologist, one must complete graduation from a medical college followed by 4-year medical program and then 3 years of training program or residency in internal medicine. After completing residency, aspirants must complete a two to three-year fellowship. They can then choose from various subspecialties of pulmonology including interstitial lung disease, interventional pulmonology, lung transplantation, obstructive lung disease and sleep-disordered breathing. 

Procedures performed by pulmonologists

  • CT scan to get detailed images of the chest
  • Chest fluoroscopy
  • Chest ultrasound
  • Lobectomy
  • Pleural biopsy
  • Pulmonary function test
  • Pulse oximetry test
  • Transplantation
  • Thoracentesis
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Sleep study 

When to see a pulmonologist?

If you are witnessing the following symptoms, you need the services of a pulmonologist. 

  • Have difficulty breathing
  • Have a persistent cough
  • Regularly cough up blood

Conditions treated by a pulmonologist

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of progressive lung diseases which obstruct airflow to the lungs. It’s normally caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Symptoms include shortness of breath, especially during physical activities, wheezing, chest tightness, having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, chronic cough that may produce sputum, blueness of the lips or fingernail beds, frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy, unexpected weight loss etc.

Treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
A pulmonologist may prescribe bronchodilators to help relax the muscles of the airways so you can breathe easier along with oxygen therapy and in severe cases, surgery called bullectomy.  

Dyspnoea (Shortness of breath)
Dyspnoea is a medical term to describe shortness of breath which can range from mild and temporary to serious and long lasting. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of dyspnoea. 

Symptoms of Dyspnoea
Symptoms include chest pain, wheezing, sweating, nasal congestion, headache, nausea and vomiting. 

Treatment of Dyspnoea
Specific treatments vary from person to person. If dyspnoea is linked to asthma, a pulmonologist may prescribe bronchodilators and steroids. If it is due to pneumonia, antibiotics can bring relief. 

Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is a potentially serious infectious disease that primarily affects lungs. The bacteria which causes tuberculosis can spread from one individual to another. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of tuberculosis. 

Symptoms of Tuberculosis
Symptoms include coughing that lasts three or more weeks, coughing up blood, chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills and loss of appetite.

Treatment of Tuberculosis
A pulmonologist may prescribe the most common medications for tuberculosis including isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol and pyrazinamide. 

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder characterized by the build-up of thick, sticky mucus that can damage many of the body's organs, mainly the lungs and digestive system. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of cystic fibrosis. 

Symptoms of Cystic fibrosis
Symptoms include persistent cough that produces thick mucus, wheezing, breathlessness, exercise intolerance, repeated lung infections, stuffy nose, foul-smelling, greasy stools, poor weight gain, intestinal blockage, particularly in newborns and severe constipation.

Treatment of Cystic fibrosis
A pulmonologist may prescribe antibiotics to treat and prevent lung infections, anti-inflammatory medications to lessen swelling in the airways in your lungs, mucus-thinning drugs to help you cough up the mucus, bronchodilators, oral pancreatic enzymes to help your digestive tract absorb nutrients. In severe cases, he may recommend nasal polyp removal, oxygen therapy, endoscopy and lavage, bowel surgery or lung transplant. 

Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a form of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in your lungs and the right side of your heart. It occurs when tiny arteries in your lungs and capillaries become narrowed, blocked or destroyed. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of pulmonary hypertension. 

Symptoms of Pulmonary hypertension
Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness or fainting spells, chest pressure or pain, swelling in your ankles, legs and eventually in your abdomen, bluish colour to your lips and skin, racing pulse or heart palpitations. 

Treatment of Pulmonary hypertension
A pulmonologist may prescribe blood vessel dilators (vasodilators), endothelin receptor antagonists, sildenafil and tadalafil, high-dose calcium channel blockers, soluble guanylate cyclase (SGC) stimulator, anticoagulants, digoxin, diuretics or oxygen therapy. Additionally, he may recommend atrial septostomy or a lung or heart-lung transplant procedure.  

Pulmonary fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is one of the most common interstitial lung diseases that occur when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of pulmonary fibrosis.

Symptoms of Pulmonary fibrosis
Symptoms include shortness of breath, dry cough, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, aching muscles and joints, widening and rounding of the tips of the fingers or toes.

Treatment of Pulmonary fibrosis
A pulmonologist may prescribe pirfenidone and nintedanib to slow the progression of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis along with oxygen therapy. In severe cases, a pulmonologist may also recommend lung transplantation.

Acute Respiratory Infection
Acute respiratory infection is an infection that interferes with normal breathing. It can affect upper as well as lower respiratory system and is prominent in children, older adults, and people with immune system diseases. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of acute respiratory infection.

Symptoms of acute respiratory infection
Symptoms include congestion, either in the nasal sinuses or lungs, runny nose, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue. 

Treatment of acute respiratory infection
For bacterial infection, a pulmonologist may prescribe antibiotics. For viral infection, there are no known treatments. A pulmonologist may prescribe medications to manage symptoms.

Sarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease in which granulomas or clumps of inflammatory cells form in different parts of the body, especially lungs. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of sarcoidosis.

Symptoms of sarcoidosis
Symptoms include fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest pain.

Treatment of sarcoidosis
A pulmonologist may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, methotrexate and azathioprine to suppress the immune system. Lung transplant may be necessary if sarcoidosis has severely damaged the lungs.

Interstitial lung disease
Interstitial lung disease is a group of diseases that lead to lung damage and ultimately fibrosis with loss of the elasticity of the lungs. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of interstitial lung disease.

Symptoms of interstitial lung disease
Symptoms include chronic dry, hacking coughing, shortness of breath, especially during or after physical activity, lasting tiredness, weight loss, bulb-like development of the fingertips and nails.

Treatment of interstitial lung disease
A pulmonologist may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-fibrotics along with oxygen therapy. In severe cases, a pulmonologist may also recommend lung transplantation.

Bronchiectasis

Bronchiectasis is a medical condition in which bronchial tubes of the lungs get lastingly damaged, widened, and thickened. This leads to build-up of excess mucus that can make the lungs more vulnerable to infection. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of bronchiectasis.

Symptoms of Bronchiectasis
Symptoms include chronic daily cough, coughing up blood, wheezing in the chest, shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up large amounts of thick mucus every day, weight loss, fatigue, thickening of the skin under your nails and toes and frequent respiratory infections.

Treatment of Bronchiectasis
The damage caused to the lungs by bronchiectasis is permanent a pulmonologist may prescribe medications to help improve airflow within the lungs and antibiotics to treat any lung infections that develop. 

Acute respiratory distress syndrome
Acute respiratory distress syndrome is a medical condition in which fluids build-up in the tiny, elastic air sacs in the lungs. This disease restricts oxygen supply to various organs of the body. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome
Symptoms include severe shortness of breath, laboured and unusually rapid breathing, low blood pressure and confusion and extreme tiredness.

Treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome
A pulmonologist may prescribe medications to prevent and treat infections, relieve pain and discomfort along with supplementing more oxygen into the bloodstream. Additionally, patients may require the support of a mechanical ventilator. 

Pulmonary embolism

Pulmonary embolism refers to a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs. It can damage part of the lung due to lack oxygen levels and blood flow. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism
Symptoms include shortness of breath, anxiety¸ bluish skin, chest pain that may extend into your arm, jaw, neck, and shoulder, fainting, irregular heartbeat, light-headedness, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, spitting up blood and weak pulse.

Treatment of pulmonary embolism
A pulmonologist may prescribe anticoagulants and clot-busting drugs that can dissolve clots quickly along with clot removal procedure and vein filter. 

Pneumothorax

A pneumothorax is a medical condition in which air leaks into the space between your lung and chest wall leading to a collapsed lung. It may be caused by chest injury, certain medical procedures, or damage from underlying lung disease. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of pneumothorax.

Symptoms of pneumothorax
Symptoms include a steady ache in the chest, shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, stiffness in the chest, turning blue or fast heart rate. 

Treatment of pneumothorax
A pulmonologist may suggest inserting chest tube which continuously removes air from the chest cavity along with surgery to close the air leak.

Pleural effusion (Fluid in the chest)

Pleural effusion refers to an excessive build-up of fluid in the space between your lungs and chest cavity. Some medical conditions can cause a pleural effusion. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of pleural effusion.

Symptoms of pleural effusion
Symptoms include chest pain, dry cough, fever, difficulty breathing when lying down, shortness of breath, difficulty taking deep breaths and persistent hiccups. 

Treatment of pleural effusion
A pulmonologist will drain the fluid from the chest cavity, either with a needle or a small tube inserted into the chest. In severe cases, he may insert a shunt, or small tube, into the chest cavity. 

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a long term lung condition caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a natural mineral product that's resistant to heat and corrosion. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of asbestosis.

Symptoms of Asbestosis
Symptoms include shortness of breath, a persistent, dry cough, loss of appetite with weight loss, fingertips and toes that appear wider and rounder than normal, chest tightness or pain.

Treatment of Asbestosis
A pulmonologist will prescribe supplemental oxygen to ease breathing difficulty and in severe cases, he may suggest a lung transplant.

Pulmonary edema

Pulmonary edema is a medical condition in which there is excess fluid in the lungs. Most cases of pulmonary edema are caused by heart problems. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of pulmonary edema.

Symptoms of pulmonary edema
Symptoms include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, feeling of suffocating or drowning, wheezing or gasping for breath, restlessness or a sense of apprehension, chest pain if pulmonary edema is caused by heart disease, rapid, irregular heartbeat.

Treatment of pulmonary edema
A pulmonologist may prescribe preload reducing medications to decrease the pressure caused by fluid, morphine to relieve shortness of breath and anxiety along with afterload reducers and blood pressure medications. 

Acute respiratory failure

Acute respiratory failure is a medical condition which occurs when fluid builds up in the air sacs in your lungs. In this condition, lungs are not able to release oxygen into your blood. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of acute respiratory failure.

Symptoms of acute respiratory failure
Symptoms include an inability to breathe, bluish skin, fingertips, or lips, restlessness, anxiety, confusion, altered consciousness, rapid, shallow breathing, racing heart and profuse sweating.

Treatment of acute respiratory failure
For severe cases, a pulmonologist may suggest an operation that creates an artificial airway in the windpipe known as tracheostomy. Other than this, he may prescribe pain medications or other medicines to help you breathe better.

Silicosis

Silicosis is a medical condition caused by excessive exposure to silica dust. People who are occupied in Abrasives manufacturing, Glass manufacturing, Mining, Sand blasting are prone to this disease. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of silicosis.

Symptoms of Silicosis
Symptoms include cough, sharp chest pain, fever, breathing difficulty, unexpected weight loss. 

Treatment of Silicosis
There is no specific treatment for silicosis. A pulmonologist may prescribe cough medicine, bronchodilators, and oxygen for supportive treatment along with antibiotics for respiratory infections.
 
Pneumonitis

Pneumonitis refers to a swelling of the lung tissue. It is mainly caused by exposure to airborne irritants. A pulmonologist is a specialist with expertise in the management of pneumonitis.

Symptoms of pneumonitis
Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, fatigue, loss of appetite and unexpected weight loss. 

Treatment of pneumonitis
A pulmonologist may prescribe corticosteroids to reduce swelling in your lungs along with oxygen therapy to ease breathing. 

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