The role of the pulmonologist: what diseases does Pneumology study?

The respiratory system can be divided into several parts, parts that can in turn suffer from specific diseases.

  • The respiratory tract: these are the tubes through which the air circulates from the moment it enters the organism to the lungs. They are divided into upper and lower airways:
    • Upper airways: these are the nose, sinuses, pharynx, trachea and larynx. The most common diseases are rhinitis, sinusitis, pharyngitis and laryngitis.
    • Lower respiratory tract: includes the trachea, bronchi and bronchioles. At this level, the most frequent diseases are those affecting the bronchi, such as asthma or COPD. The disease that produces obstruction in the bronchi causes a sensation of shortness of breath and wheezing.
  • The lungs are two organs responsible for the passage of oxygen from atmospheric air into the blood. The most common pathologies can be of an infectious nature, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia or bronchitis; of a non-infectious inflammatory cause, such as alveolitis or interstitial fibrosis; and finally, of a tumoral nature, where bronchopulmonary carcinoma stands out, linked to the exposure and consumption of potentially carcinogenic substances, such as tobacco.

The lungs

In the lungs, the vascular network, designed to transport oxygen and eliminate CO2, should be highlighted. The most common diseases at this level are venous thromboembolic disease and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

The lungs are “enveloped” by two thin layers, known as pleurae, which is when we speak of the pleural surface. In these layers there is a virtual cavity, which is usually empty and can be occupied by air (pneumothorax), fluid (pleural effusion) or pus (empyema).

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Apart from these processes, Pneumology is also responsible for the study of respiratory sleep disorders, especially obstructive apnea.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the Pneumologist also studies problems such as smoking or asthma.

Symptoms for which it should go to the Pneumologist

The sensation of shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent cough and even purulent expectoration and especially sputum accompanied by blood stains should always be consulted.

Other signs such as chest or back pain may correspond to pulmonary diseases, especially if accompanied by fever.

Snoring and interrupted breathing during sleep should be assessed in people with cardiac problems, hypertension or excessive daytime sleepiness.

Fortunately, most respiratory processes resolve positively with proper treatment.

How are respiratory diseases studied?

By means of imaging tests, such as a chest X-ray, a CAT scan or a scanner, ultrasound scans and magnetic resonance imaging.

Endoscopic studies make it possible to observe the inside of the bronchi, which is very useful for performing biopsies.

Pulmonary function tests make it possible to measure the amount of air passing through the airways, i.e. spirometry.

With a bacteriological study of respiratory secretions, infectious diseases can be diagnosed, since the germ or germs that are causing it can be determined.