An internal medicine physician or internist specializes in comprehensive care for adults. With training in any number of subspecialties, internal medicine doctors serve as primary care physicians (PCP) to individuals aged 18 and older.
Internal Medicine for Primary Care
Internal medicine physicians provide prevention, diagnosis and medical treatment to adults. Nonsurgical healthcare services offered by internists include physical exams, preventive screenings, immunizations and acute and chronic medical care. As a primary care provider, an internal medicine physician can provide treatment for most diseases and conditions in adults, including:
An internal medicine physician provides care for acute illness and minor injuries:
- Colds, flu, fevers, and sore throats can be caused by bacteria or viruses, and the symptoms can cause significant discomfort and pain. Medical treatment can manage symptoms to alleviate discomfort, reduce fever and provide antibiotic treatment when appropriate.
- Sprains, strains and cuts often require proper diagnosis and treatment. Sprained ligaments or other sports injuries can be painful and cause significant swelling. Cuts and lacerations need wound care and, in some cases, stitches in order to prevent infection.
- Urinary tract infections (UTI) affect the bladder or kidneys. UTI symptoms include increased urge to urinate and pain and burning during urination.
Certain chronic medical conditions can develop at any point in an adult’s life, requiring continued management and treatment:
- Allergies are very common and can come in a number of forms. There are a range of allergy symptoms, including itchy eyes, runny nose, skin irritation, upset stomach or breathing and swallowing problems.
- Anxiety and depression can affect an individual’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Anxiety can present as a heightened sense of nervousness or agitations, can be acute and can interfere with daily life. Depression is characterized by pronounced feelings of sadness, lethargy and lack of interest in life. Both anxiety and depression can occur on their own or may be associated with other health concerns.
- Diabetes is a disease caused by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin to correctly process blood sugar. Type I diabetes is when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells responsible for creating insulin. Type II diabetes occurs when the body stops being able to use insulin properly.
- Heart disease describes a range of conditions that can affect heart health. Heart disease, also referred to as cardiovascular disease, results from damage to the blood vessels. If the artery becomes blocked, oxygen and vital nutrients can’t reach the heart and a heart attack can occur. Heart disease risk is based on lifestyle and hereditary factors.
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, happens when blood vessel pressure is at an unhealthy level. The more blood pumped by the heart and the narrower the arteries, the higher blood pressure becomes. Hypertension can damage the heart and lead to heart disease. Although very common, high blood pressure doesn’t always produce symptoms but is easily detectable through a medical exam.
- Lung disorders such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can cause difficulty breathing and a range of other symptoms.
As vaccines and vaccine guidelines change over time, it’s important to stay current with immunizations. Routine childhood and adult immunizations as well as seasonal flu shots are part of the preventive care services practiced by internists.
Common medical issues that can affect men include erectile dysfunction and prostate care. A gland that’s part of the male reproductive system, the prostate grows larger over the course of a man’s life. Enlarged prostates can cause health issues.
Bone and Joint Issues
At some point in their lives, nearly everyone will experience joint pain. Adults over 50 are more prone to having bone and joint issues, including osteoarthritis. Pain that affects the bones and joints can affect the hips, shoulders, knees and hands. Your internist can help manage your orthopedic care, can screen for arthritis and offer other diagnostic tools and provide care for a wide range of bone and joint concerns.
Aging adults face unique issues which necessitate specialized treatment. Age-related memory decline can impair judgment and decision-making ability and pose a threat to a person’s overall wellbeing. Older adults may also struggle with mobility issues as a result of muscle weakness, pain, disease or neurological conditions. Seniors often have multiple prescriptions that require medical oversight to prevent against complications. Internal medicine doctors care for both the cognitive and physical considerations that can be common in advanced age.
Coordination of Care
Person-centered continuity of care is an important factor in internal medicine. If an individual requires hospitalization, internists provide both inpatient care and follow-up after the hospital discharge. This ensures both consistent, quality treatment and coordination of medication. In the event that at an adult must transition into a nursing home, the internist plays an integral role in helping to facilitate the process and advocates on behalf of the individual’s care needs.
The Best Care for You
Internal medicine doctors are trained to provide treatment and care for most diseases and conditions affecting adults. As a primary care physician, your internist can help to manage all of your healthcare needs, including providing preventive screening exams to ensure you’re in the best health possible.