What Is an Internal Medicine Specialist?Internal medicine specialists
are doctors who are trained to diagnose, treat, and help prevent a broad range of medical conditions in adults. To become an internal medicine specialist, or internist, a doctor needs to complete medical school, followed by a residency in internal medicine. Additional training may be obtained in subspecialties such as infectious diseases, cardiology, pulmonology, allergy, hematology, gastroenterology, nephrology, rheumatology, and endocrinology. Internists who specialize in a specific discipline are referred to by that subspecialty, such as cardiologist, pulmonologist, oncologist, and so on.
General internists provide comprehensive, long-term primary care for adults. They can diagnose and treat a variety of common to rare diseases and chronic medical conditions, and often treat people with more than one condition. Internists also focus on preventive care and health promotion. They treat conditions that affect all areas of the body, including the gastrointestinal, respiratory, reproductive, urinary, nervous, and circulatory systems. They treat people with one or more conditions such as high or low blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, COPD, obesity, and more.
As primary care doctors, general internists often work closely with other specialists, including neurosurgeons, oncologists, endocrinologists, pediatricians, and others. Internists look after the health concerns of adults only, unlike family practitioners who treat the entire family, including children. Internists can work in an ambulatory setting or as “hospitalists”, when caring for patients while they are in a hospital.When Should I See an Internal Medicine Specialist?
Contact your primary care physician if you notice symptoms that indicate something is not right with your health. You may need to see an internist if you experience:
- Severe or chronic pain anywhere in the body
- Breathing or lung-related problems
- Sleep problems
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems such as chest pain, irregular heartbeat
- Digestive problems including pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- General health related problems such as unexplained weight gain or loss
Adults may contact an internal medicine specialist on a routine basis for any health related problem or maintenance of overall health. You may also want to tell your doctor if you have a family history of conditions such as diabetes, asthma, thyroid disorders, heart problems, cancer,or rare disorders such as thalassemia. This can help you assess your risk of developing the disorder and know the warning signs that may indicate a health concern.What Kind of Tests Does an Internal Medicine Specialist Perform or Recommend?
The diagnostic tests recommended by aninternal medicine physician depend on your symptoms. Some of these tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Urine test
- Stool test
- Imaging tests including x-rays, MRI, CT scans
Based on the test results, your doctor may ask you have further tests or you may be referred to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.What Questions Should I Ask an Internal Medicine Specialist?
You may want to these kinds of questions:
- What do my symptoms indicate?
- What caused my condition? What complications can I expect?
- Should I see another specialist for my condition?
- What is best treatment for my condition? Are there other options for treatment?
- How long do I need to take the medicine? Does the treatment (or medicine) have any side effects?What happens if the treatment doesn’t work for me?
- Can I continue taking my other medicines?
- How can I prevent it from happening again?What symptoms should I be watchful for?
- What changes can I make in my lifestyle to improve my health?
- What diet should I follow to improve my condition?
- Are other people in my family at risk of getting this disease?
- Do I need a follow-up visit?