Pulmonology is a medical specialty that deals with diseases involving the respiratory tract. Pulmonologists are specially trained in diseases and conditions of the lungs and airways, particularly pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, sleep apnea, emphysema, pleurisy, occupational and environmental diseases, and other complex disorders of the lungs.
The pulmonologist begins the diagnostic process with a general review focusing on:
- Hereditary diseases affecting the lungs (cystic fibrosis, alpha l-antitrypsin deficiency)
- Exposure to toxins (tobacco smoke, asbestos, exhaust fumes, coal mining fumes) exposure to infectious agents (certain types of birds, malt processing)
- An autoimmune diathesis that might predispose to certain conditions (pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension)
Medication is the most important treatment of most diseases of pulmonology, either by inhalation (bronchodilators and steroids) or in oral form (antibiotics, leukotriene antagonists). A common example being the usage of inhalers in the treatment of inflammatory lung conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Oxygen therapy is often necessary in severe respiratory disease (emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis).