What is pulmonology?
Pulmonology is a field of medicine that focuses specifically on diagnosing and treating disorders of the respiratory system.
What conditions do pulmonologists treat?
Conditions pulmonologists commonly treat include:
- bronchiectasis, a condition that involves inflammation and excess mucus.
- bronchitis, which happens when you have inflamed lower airways.
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which causes an airflow blockage.
- emphysema, which happens when the alveoli in your lungs are damaged.
- interstitial lung diseases, which affect the space and tissue within the lung.
- occupational lung diseases, which can occur due to the inhalation of dusts, chemicals, or proteins.
- obstructive sleep apnea, which causes your breathing to slow or stop entirely when you’re sleeping.
What procedures do pulmonologists use?
Pulmonologists can use and interpret exams and tests to help determine a lung-related diagnosis. These may include the following:
- CT scan to get detailed images of the bones, muscles, fat organs, and blood vessels in your chest.
- chest fluoroscopy, an X-ray test to see how well your lungs are functioning.
- chest ultrasound to examine the organs and other chest structures.
- pleural biopsy to remove a small tissue sample from the pleura, which is the membrane that surrounds your lungs.
- pulmonary function test, a breathing test to see how well your lungs are working.
- pulse oximetry test to determine the oxygen saturation level in your blood.
- thoracentesis to remove and sample fluid from around your lungs.
- chest tube to remove air or fluid from around your lungs.
- bronchoscopy to examine your airway and determine if you have any issues.
When should you see a pulmonologist?
If you’re having any unusual symptoms, you should meet with your primary care doctor. They will perform a medical exam and assess your overall condition. They may refer you to a pulmonologist if you:
- have difficulty breathing
- have a persistent cough
- regularly cough up blood or mucus
- have unexplained weight loss
- have trouble exercising due to breathing problems