What Is Pulmonology?
Pulmonology is a medical specialty that deals with diseases of the respiratory system. The lungs are vital organs because humans cannot live without breathing. Somnology is considered one of the essential divisions of pulmonology: it is a science that studies sleep and its possible disorders (for example, snoring or sleep apnea).
As a rule, when a person has any physical complaints, they visit a physician before consulting a specialized doctor. This approach is better since the physician can see the nature of the complaints and refer the patient to a specialist trained in relevant diseases.
Complaints and symptoms which require pulmonologist’s advice:
- dry or wet, especially lingering, cough;
- sputum of any nature (it is abnormal);
- chest pain;
- breathing difficulty;
- shortness of breath at rest and/or on exertion;
- lung crackling.
Cough is the most common sign of respiratory disorders. However, it does not indicate problems with the respiratory tract only: cough can also be a symptom of heart, nervous system diseases, etc. Such a symptom may be caused by an allergy or an adverse drug reaction. Therefore, it is often difficult to sort out the situation without a professional. A lingering disease can provoke some mental problems, depression, and insomnia in particular, so, in addition to a pulmonologist, patients sometimes need to consult related specialists.
The pulmonologist prescribes appropriate therapy in accordance with the complaints and examination or adjusts the pre-existing prescriptions. Patients who suffer from chronic diseases of the respiratory tract should visit a pulmonologist according to a personalized schedule for timely prevention of complications. Choosing a competent specialist is quite a difficult task, but it’s worth it: after all, the quality of a person’s life hinges upon lung health. The doctor will prepare an individual rehabilitation program suitable for the disease and its severity and give detailed recommendations so that to avoid aggravation or prevent respiratory disorders.
The Most Common Diseases
A pulmonologist is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases. They are divided into two large groups: obstructive and restrictive.
Obstructive Lung Diseases
The main symptom of obstructive pulmonary disease is obstructed airflow from the lungs. Unlike healthy people, patients with the disease need more time to exhale all the air in the lungs. An abnormally high amount of air may still linger in the lungs after a full exhalation. The symptoms become more severe on exertion since the breathing rate becomes more rapid. Exhalation also remains insufficient, moreover, the patient has less time for it.
The most common obstructive lung diseases are:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
- chronic bronchitis;
Restrictive Lung Diseases
These diseases are characterized by difficulty inhaling. The lungs are not able to expand enough, which causes symptoms of respiratory failure. This problem is observed in the following diseases:
- interstitial lung diseases;
- diseases characterized by a changing chest with normal lungs (poliomyelitis, scoliosis, obesity, muscular dystrophy, etc.).
Lung Diseases Treatment Methods
Surgery is used when non-surgical treatment will not work for the patient or will not be effective enough to help them. One of the essential tasks of surgery is avoiding traumatizing operations as much as practical. Countries with advanced health care (Israel, Germany, and some others) offer minimally invasive operations as gold standard procedures. Such operations are followed by a shorter recovery period, and the surgery features good tolerability and rarely causes any complications.
Another important task of surgeons is to be extremely careful when operating and do their best to save the organ. If a patient is diagnosed with cancer, the best effect can be achieved by combining the efforts of thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, and oncologists.
Minimally invasive operations on the lungs and bronchi require high qualification, expertise, exceptional concentration, and knowledge of anatomy from the surgeon. After all, the lungs are close to the aorta and other large vessels as well as the contracting myocard. The work of surgeons becomes even more complicated because of a rigid ribcage, which limits their manipulations.
The treatment strategy largely depends on the definite diagnosis. Foreign specialists focus on an individual approach: they do not have a single treatment regimen for all patients. A pulmonologist can prescribe these medications:
- anti-inflammatory drugs;
- bronchial spasmolytics (bronchodilators);
- hormone therapy drugs and biopharmaceuticals;
- anticoagulants and thrombolytic drugs;
- anti-tuberculosis drugs;
- cytostatic drugs, etc.
They can be prescribed as tablets, injections, or inhalation drugs. The latter is more popular in pulmonology than in other branches of medicine: for example, asthmatics and people suffering from COPD are prescribed metered aerosols to treat attacks and for chronic use. They are easy to use and ensure immediate results.
The treatment duration depends on the disease. Some of them (for example, asthma) require lifelong therapy, which helps stop attacks and enables the patient to live a full life without considerable restrictions.
The primary treatment course should be followed by rehabilitation. The patient should know breathing exercises promoting faster restoration of pulmonary functions.
Post-therapy rehabilitation is necessary to keep the respiratory tract healthy. It includes proper rest, health-resort treatment, physiotherapy, and an eventual return to a usual mode of life. Recommendations are given to each patient:
- Giving up smoking. It has long been proven that nicotine and other tobacco smoke components deteriorate the respiratory status and increase the risk of lung cancer, COPD, and other diseases. Passive smoking is as harmful as active smoking: therefore, you should not be close to those who are smoking.
- Avoiding dust and other outdoor pollutants. This applies especially to people with unhealthy jobs, those who inhale toxic substances (for example, asbestos dust). In this case, you should take all personal protection measures when working with such substances.
- Reinforcing the immunity: you do not need any immunostimulants for this. You only need to be vaccinated in time, wash your hands several times a day, and condition yourself to cold. Avoid public gathering places during the periods of seasonal infections outbreaks.
- Healthy and nutritious diet. The diet should include an adequate quantity of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. It is necessary for the proper work of all organs and systems.
- Daily exercise. Sports strengthen the respiratory system, improve muscles and make your body more resistant to various respiratory diseases.
If you have any complaints or symptoms of respiratory diseases, do not delay visiting a doctor. You should also choose a doctor carefully and if necessary, consult experts about this.