Patients across the Greater Shiawassee County area, who are living with a broad range of respiratory conditions, can receive the comprehensive, personalized care they need at Memorial Healthcare. Dr. Gerald Pruitt is board-certified in pulmonary medicine and internal medicine, while specializing in diagnosing and treating respiratory system disorders.
Pulmonology is a branch of medicine that focuses on the lungs and the other essential components of the respiratory system, and a pulmonologist is a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating respiratory conditions. The respiratory system is made up of several parts, including:
- Nose and mouth
- Pharynx (throat)
- Larynx (voice box)
- Trachea (windpipe)
- Bronchi and bronchioles (passageways in the lungs)
- Alveoli (air sacs in the lungs)
A pulmonologist helps patients figure out what’s causing lung issues and crafts a treatment plan that focuses on curing or managing the illness. Since the heart and lungs are closely linked, some pulmonology patients may also see a physician in the cardiology department for certain conditions. Specialists in oncology and pulmonology departments may also coordinate to help lung cancer patients. Some of the illnesses treated by pulmonologists include the following:
- Asthma: This chronic condition affects the airways in the lungs and makes breathing difficult. An asthma attack may be triggered in several ways and vary in intensity.
- Bronchiectasis: A chronic condition commonly found in older patients, bronchiectasis occurs when the walls of the bronchi thicken due to inflammation and infection. This causes mucus to collect in these air passages.
- Bronchitis: This occurs when the bronchial tube lining becomes inflamed. Patients may be diagnosed with acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): This is an overarching term for a group of lung diseases. Patients diagnosed with COPD may have symptoms of one or more illnesses and the condition may progress over time.
- COVID-19: Caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, COVID-19 may cause respiratory illnesses that vary in severity.
- Emphysema: Common among smokers, this irreversible lung disease is characterized by damaged alveoli and tissue.
- Occupational lung diseases: Long-term exposure to chemicals and other irritants on the job may lead to a variety of respiratory illnesses. This can cause lasting symptoms and may resemble other medical issues.
- Pleural disorders: These conditions affect the tissue that lines the outside of the lungs and the inside of the chest cavity. The primary pleural diseases include pleurisy, pleural effusion, and pneumothorax.
- Pneumonia: Affecting one or both lungs, this infection causes the alveoli to become inflamed and fill with fluid.
- Pulmonary embolic disease: A pulmonary embolism is a blockage (typically a blood clot) that occurs in an artery of the lungs. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment.
- Pulmonary fibrosis: This is a disease where scarring in the lungs makes it difficult to breathe. There are many types of pulmonary fibrosis.
- Pulmonary hypertension: This condition occurs when blood vessels narrow and cause the blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs to become abnormally high.
- Sarcoidosis: This inflammatory disease commonly affects the lungs and lymph glands. This causes abnormal lumps or nodules to form and may affect functionality.
- Sleep apnea: This condition affects the patient’s ability to breathe while asleep. If left untreated, a sleeping disorder can impact daytime alertness and cause other health issues.
- Tuberculosis: An infectious disease, tuberculosis commonly affects the lungs but may also extend to other areas.
At Memorial Healthcare, patient-centered care is at the core of every department. The pulmonology team educates patients on their condition, listens to their concerns, and goes over treatment plans in detail to ensure it’s fully understood.
When to Visit a Pulmonologist
Patients typically visit a pulmonologist upon recommendation from their primary care physician. This referral means that the patient’s symptoms are beyond the scope of a regular healthcare provider’s care and they could benefit from seeing this type of specialist. The signs that might warrant a pulmonology referral may include the following:
- Chronic cough that doesn’t improve over time
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Chest tightness or pain
- Recurring illnesses that impact the respiratory system
- Sleep apnea symptoms