Internal medicine is the diagnosis, treatment and management of both common and complex illnesses of adolescents, adults and the elderly. An internist has special training in diagnosing and treating infections and diseases of the kidneys, heart joints, blood, respiratory, vascular and digestive system, as well as cancer.
Internal medicine physicians are called internists and provide complete, long-term care in the hospital setting or office. These internists help in managing complex and common illnesses in adolescents, adults and the elderly, while creating an awareness regarding the prevention of diseases and health management. They also help patients in understanding other areas such as mental health, substance abuse, women’s health and provide treatment for common problems of the ears, skin, eyes, reproductive and nervous systems. The internist may practice as a general internist or may specialize in any one therapeutic field. The general internists may serve you along with pediatricians and family medicine doctors.
Sub-specialties of Internal Medicine
Some of the specialties that come under internal medicine include:
You may be referred to an adolescent medicine specialist when special attention is required for an adolescent problem. These specialists evaluate physical, social, sexual, psychological and behavioral issues related to puberty or the adolescents’ development needs.
Allergy and Immunology
This specialty is concerned with problems associated with the human immune system. Prevention, diagnosis and treatment are directed towards:
- Food immune responses causing gastrointestinal disorders
- Autoimmune responses such as arthritis
- Respiratory tract diseases like asthma, allergic rhinitis and sinusitis
- Adverse effects to diagnostic tests or drugs
- Skin diseases like hives, eczema and contact dermatitis
- Immunodeficiency symptoms
- Bone marrow, stem cell and organ transplants
- Genetic disease related to immune system
Cardiology is focused on problems with blood vessels, blood circulation, heart and lung functions.
You may be referred to an endocrinologist if you have problems with how your hormones function. An endocrinologist will treat you for thyroid disorders, metabolic conditions, growth hormone deficiency, osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances, genetic dysfunction, diabetes and infertility, to name a few.
A gastroenterologist is concerned with problems associated with your digestive tract (stomach, small and large intestine, esophagus, liver and pancreas). Your gastroenterologist may perform a biopsy or endoscopy, and work with the surgeons to decide the best operative technique for you; but they do not perform surgeries themselves.
Geriatrics deals with the diagnosis, treatment and management of elderly patients. Special attention is given to falls, preoperative evaluation, post-operative management, dementia, incontinence and other diseases that occur with aging.
Hematology provides specialized diagnosis and treatment for bone marrow, blood and lymphatic system disorders. A hematologist will treat you if you have abnormal bleeding and clotting, blood cancers like leukemia, Hodgkin's disease (cancer of white blood cells) and lymphoma, bone marrow failure, platelets or white blood cell disorders.
Infectious disease specializes in treating infections in the brain, lungs, bones, urinary tract, heart, pelvic organs and sinuses. If you are suffering from bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic infections; you may be referred to an infectious disease specialist. Infections due to human immunodeficiency virus (AIDS) will also be handled by these specialists.
A nephrologist will diagnose and treat kidney diseases, conditions that can lead to kidney failure (diabetes and polycystic kidney disease) and associated problems (hypertension). They help in maintaining the functions of the kidney. A nephrologist can help you determine if your condition requires a dialysis or kidney transplant but will not be involved in the transplantation procedure. However, they may help in your post-surgical care and treat problems that can arise after a surgery.
Medical oncology focuses on the treatment of cancer. Medical oncologists can be surgical oncologists or radiation oncologists. Your oncologist will provide the required care right from the time of diagnosis through the whole course of cancer.
Pulmonology is concerned with the management of disorders of the lungs and bronchial tubes. Problems associated with the throat, nose, pharynx and the heart are evaluated. Conditions of the chest such as tuberculosis, asthma, pneumonia and chest infections are treated by pulmonologists.
A rheumatologist focuses on the diseases of the joints, muscles and bones such as gout, lupus, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis and tendonitis.
Specialists in sports medicine deal with injuries and illnesses related to physical fitness and sports. Further, you may be referred for surgery or physical therapy. Care may also include appropriate nutrition necessary for growth and improved performance. If you suffer from asthma, arthritis, diabetes or obesity, sports medicine specialists can guide on an exercise program that can improve fitness and overall health.
Specialists in internal medicine will provide you with life-long care and support during your illness. They will also co-ordinate with other physicians and surgeons involved in the patient’s care while managing the associated diseases and patients’ health.