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Pulmonology 101: Everything You Need To Know About Pulmonologists

Dr.Javed Hayat

3 min read

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Pulmonologists go by many names: Lung Doctor, Respiratory Physician and Pulmonary Physician. Whatever the name, they all deal with the Respiratory System, comprising the airway, lungs, respiratory muscles and even the heart.

Who Is a Pulmonologist?

A Pulmonologist is an Internal Medicine specialist-hence also possessing a detailed knowledge of neurology and dermatology-who treats and diagnoses conditions and diseases affecting the respiratory tract. They mainly handle Infectious, Structural, Inflammatory and Neoplastic (related to tumours) respiratory disorders.

As a non-surgical doctor, a pulmonologist’s main job is to identify as well as assist other healthcare professionals in making diagnoses through various lab tests.

What Conditions Do Pulmonologists Treat?

Treatment is usually done by prescribing antibiotics, steroids or other medication in either hard pill form or the common ‘inhaler’. In addition, pulmonologists also advise their patients on disease management and self-care through suitable lifestyle changes. They can also prescribe breathing machines and oxygen for advanced stage chronic respiratory patients.

Some common respiratory disorders treated exclusively by pulmonologists are:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Bronchitis Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Emphysema
  • Interstitial Lung Diseases
  • Occupational Lung Diseases
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What Procedures Do Pulmonologists Perform?

Despite not being surgeons, Pulmonary Specialists can conduct a variety of diagnostic tests to help identify a disease:

  • CT scan: Detailed imaging tests of the bones, muscles, fat organs, and blood vessels in the chest region
  • Chest Fluoroscopy and Pulmonary Function Test: To check lung function
  • Chest Ultrasound: To examine the chest organs
  • Pulse Oximetry Test: To determine oxygen saturation level in blood.
  • Bronchoscopy: For determining issues in the trachea, lower airways, throat, or larynx through airway examination.
  • Sleep Study: To help diagnose sleep disorders.

Surgical Procedures (with external assistance):

  • Pleural Biopsy: To remove a small tissue sample from the lung surrounding membrane, aka ‘pleura’.
  • Lobectomy: To remove one of the lobes of the lungs.
  • Transplantation: Replacement of a diseased lung with a healthy lung.
  • Thoracentesis: Removal of air or fluid from around the lungs.

Do Pulmonary Doctors Collaborate with Other Specialists?

Since pulmonologists cannot perform surgery, they often assist other specialists with diagnostic procedures and combined treatment. They can work with General Physicians, Radiologists, Cardiothoracic Surgeons and Critical Care specialists and staff to provide comprehensive patient care.

When Should You Consult With a Pulmonologist?

While you may be referred to one if you have COPD and are not responding well to the treatment by your General Physician (or Family Physician) or it has advanced to a higher stage, you may also seek the counsel of a pulmonary specialist if you regularly experience any of the following symptoms:

1. Asthma

Asthma is a persistent lung disease. It can happen to persons of any age, but mostly affects children. Asthmatic people have sensitive airways which inflame and tighten when exposed to things like cigarette smoke and pollen. Physical exercise can also impact their airways.

Symptoms of an asthma attack typically include shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.

2. Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is considered as the common cancer targeting both men and women. Smoking is proved to be the most common factor in developing the lung cancer and around 90% of the people who smoke suffers from this disease.

The biggest fearing factor of the lung cancer is that it shows no pre symptoms and can cause tumors to grow in silence. The time patient starts getting symptoms is when the lung cancer is at the last stage. And these symptoms may include:

  • Extreme coughing that does not stop, leading to chronic coughing.
  • Blood discharge while coughing.
  • Feeling pain in the chest while coughing or even laughing.
  • Difficulty in breathing.

For this matter, both oncologist as well as pulmonologist works to help patient manage the lung cancer symptoms both pre and post treatment.

3. Lung Infections

Primary care doctor can only help patient in dealing with bronchitis. While in case of lung cancer including the complex diseases of pneumonia, tuberculosis, COPD or any other heart diseases the expert pulmonologist’s help is required.

4. Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrous is the condition in which secretory glands that make mucus are affected.  These includes glands of lungs, digestive tract, skin, respiratory tracts and reproductive organs. This disease usually falls under the genetic diseases that are transmitted among generation if it runs in the family. The symptoms of the CF that results from the respiratory tract involves the causing of thick mucus, frequent coughing and mucus discharge which can result into the damaging of the lungs. This can lead to sever consequences leading to risk of loss of life therefore, a pulmonologist should treat Cystic fibrosis.

Other symptoms that may require an urgent visit to the doctor include:

  • Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
  • Emphysema
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Excess Fluid in the Lungs (Pleural Effusion)
  • Bronchitis
  • Shortness of breath

Small breathing problems can easily be dealt with by General Physicians. However, persistent respiratory symptoms like the ones above typically require a review by a Pulmonary specialist. You can now Book an Appointment with a top Pulmonologist in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com. Or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your respiratory issues.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr.Javed Hayat
Dr.Javed Hayat - Author Dr. Javed Hayat Khan is a Pulmonologist practicing in Lahore. Dr. Javed Hayat Khan has the following degrees: MBBS, FRCP (London), MRCP (UK), FCCP , Diploma in Thoracic Medicine (London), FRCP (Glasgow) and has 36 years of experience. You can book an appointment with Dr. Javed Hayat Khan by calling us or using the 'book appointment' button.

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