Internists are physicians who diagnose and medically treat disease and provide primary care for adults. They handle routine medical issues as well as complicated problems. They offer screening for patients at risk for cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer, among other conditions, and will refer you to a specialist if it is determined to be necessary.
Internal medicine physicians can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions and illnesses, including:
Asthma is a chronic disease where the airways become inflamed and swollen, which makes breathing difficult. Patients with asthma can experience many symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. There is no cure for asthma, but medications and other treatments can help or prevent symptoms.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a progressive disease that makes breathing more difficult. There are two types of COPD: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Each type can cause many symptoms, such as a cough that produces mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. While there is no cure for COPD, treatment can help relieve symptoms.
Pneumonia and Influenza
Internists care for many common infections, including pneumonia and the flu. Pneumonia is a lung infection that’s caused by bacteria, a virus or by inhaling a liquid. Symptoms may include fever, cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. Pneumonia can be a serious condition, especially in young children, older adults and people with other health issues. Vaccines are available to help prevent some types of pneumonia.
Influenza, or the flu, is a common respiratory infection caused by a virus. Symptoms are usually worse than the common cold and may include body aches, chills, fever, headache and sore throat. While most people recover from the flu on their own, the condition can cause serious complications. The CDC recommends annual flu shots.
Diabetes is a metabolism disorder where the body is unable to regulate its blood glucose levels. Glucose comes from eating carbohydrates. For glucose to enter cells and be transformed into energy, insulin must be present. In people with diabetes, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the body doesn’t respond to the insulin it does produce. Whatever the case, glucose doesn’t get into the body's cells and blood glucose levels in the blood become elevated. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels can damage many organs of the body.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common condition where the blood flows through the veins or arteries at a higher pressure than normal. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious health issues, including heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. A blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher is generally considered high. A reading of 180/120 is considered dangerously high and requires immediate attention. Healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising more, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and managing stress can help lower blood pressure. There are several types of medications that can help lower blood pressure if lifestyle changes alone are not effective.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC. The American Heart Association estimates that one in five Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease. Internal medicine physicians can diagnose and treat many heart conditions and coordinate with other healthcare professionals, including surgeons and emergency care physicians, as needed.