Everyone comes down with a cough every now and then, especially if they catch a cold or the flu. However, if you are experiencing chronic symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, wheezing, dizziness, or sleep apnea symptoms like loud snoring or extreme tiredness, your primary healthcare provider might refer you to a pulmonologist.
Also known as a critical care specialist, a pulmonologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases of the respiratory system, which includes the nose, throat, trachea, airways, and related muscles and blood vessels. In particular, a pulmonologist specializes in lung conditions that are caused by inflammation, infections, and tissue overgrowth. Many of these conditions often require long-term – and in some cases, lifelong – treatment plans.
Working with your primary care physician (PCP), as well as other specialists as necessary, a pulmonologist treats or manages a wide variety of illnesses that include, but are not limited to:
- Asbestosis (lung disease resulting from inhalation of asbestos particles)
- Aspergillosis (an infection caused by mold)
- Bronchiectasis (damaged airways)
- Chronic beryllium disease (exposure to metallic element berylliosis)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung disease)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Interstitial lung disease causing scarring of the lungs
- Lung cancer
- Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs)
- Sarcoidosis (inflamed tissue due to autoimmune disease)
- Silicosis (pulmonary fibrosis caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica)
- Sleep apnea
How to Know If You Need to See a Pulmonologist
If your PCP suspects that you may have a serious respiratory condition, they may order some tests to conclusively diagnose the problem before referring you to a pulmonologist or critical care specialist. These tests may include:
- Blood analysis
- Imaging tests (chest X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scan)
- Pulmonary function tests
- Spirometry (a test that measures how much air you can breathe in and out of your lungs, as well as how easily and fast you can the blow the air out of your lungs)
- Bronchoscopy (a procedure to examine the airways in the lungs using a thin, lighted tube)
- Sleep study to diagnose or rule out sleep apnea
If you are referred to a pulmonologist, be prepared to provide your medical history during your first visit and to undergo a physical examination.While there, explain the details of your symptoms to your healthcare provider, as well as how long they have lasted. Also, be sure to ask the doctor any questions you may have about your condition and possible treatment.
Using their expertise in the pulmonary field, a pulmonologist can use the right diagnostic tests to determine the root cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment to bring you relief.
Pulmonary and Critical Care in Syracuse, New York
At the Department of Medicine at SUNY: Upstate Medical University, board-certified physicians trained in pulmonary and critical care are experts in lung diseases, such as pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, COPD, sarcoidosis, lung infections, undiagnosed cough, lung nodules and masses, and interstitial lung disease, as well as treating those requiring intensive care.
We have many important subspecialty clinics as a part of our pulmonary and critical care services. These include our:
- Asthma clinic
- Cystic fibrosis clinic
- Interstitial lung disease clinic
- Pulmonary clinic
- Pulmonary hypertension clinic
- Sarcoidosis clinic
To schedule an appointment, please call a pulmonary and critical care and sleep medicine provider directly. For more information about our services, you can also contact the Department of Medicine at SUNY: Upstate Medical University directly by emailing us at DeptMedicine@upstate.edu.