Due to the name of their practice, there is a misconception that doctors of internal medicine only deal with internal problems. However, that is not the case. Internal medicine doctors, also referred to as internists, studied adult medicine but do not perform surgery as the name implies.
Like primary care physicians, who diagnose and treat patients, while referring them to specialists when needed, doctors who practice internal medicine provide the same services with the only difference being their focus is on treating adults. Primary care physicians treat both adults and children.
Common conditions treated with internal medicine
This is a disease brought on by high blood sugar levels. The sugar levels in your body are regulated by the hormone called insulin. Diabetes occurs when your body does not produce enough insulin or is resistant to insulin. Depending on the type of diabetes you have, you may take daily insulin injections or drugs to increase the production of insulin in your body. In addition to insulin and medication, internists will recommend lifestyle changes like regular exercise and a healthier diet.
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airwaves and makes it difficult to breathe. The airways will become inflamed and sensitive to allergens. When asthmatic people experience an attack, their airways become narrower, restricting the flow of air to the lungs. This causes problems like wheezing, coughing and tightness of the chest. An internal medicine physician can treat asthma by prescribing medication to control the symptoms and prevent future attacks.
This is a joint disease that affects the cartilage, which is the tissue that covers the end of the bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage provides a cushion for joints and allows bones to glide over one another. For people dealing with osteoarthritis, part of the cartilage wears down, which makes the bones rub together. This rubbing results in pain, swelling and, in some cases, loss of motion. An internist will provide strategies to reduce the discomfort and prescribe medication for the inflammation and pain.
This is an inflammation of the lungs caused by bacterial infection, viruses and other organisms. People get pneumonia when influenza or an upper respiratory infection weakens their defenses. Symptoms associated with pneumonia include chest pain, fever, chills, shortness of breath, shallow breathing and cough. An internal medicine doctor will provide the pneumococcal vaccine, which prevents the common types of pneumonia. It is best for adults over 65 and people with heart disease to get this vaccine because of their vulnerability to pneumonia.
Menopause begins when a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels decline and her ovaries stop producing eggs. The symptoms, which include hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, mood swings, decreased sex drive, urinary tract infections and night sweats, can be difficult to manage. An internist can recommend hormone replacement therapy to help with the symptoms. They can also prescribe non-hormonal medications like anti-depressants to help with the mood swings.
Do you need an internist?
These are just some of the illnesses and diseases an internal medicine physician can help manage. If you are an adult and need a personal care physician, you should look for an internist close to your home because they are specifically trained to treat adults.