When Should I Consult a Pulmonologist?

lung doctorIf you’re experiencing shortness of breath, a chronic cough, unexplained weight loss, or consistently have trouble sleeping, you may have a pulmonary condition requiring a specialist called a pulmonologist.

What Do Pulmonologists Treat?

Pulmonologists treat medical conditions such as bronchitis, COPD, and sleep apnea. They also do testing to find the causes of symptoms involving shortness of breath and chronic coughing. Sleep apnea treatment and pulmonary function testing are also performed by pulmonologists.

Why Do People Visit Pulmonologists?


When people are experiencing lung-related issues that need further investigation, pulmonologists conduct and interpret one or more tests to determine the cause(s). The following tests are specialties of pulmonologists:

  • Pulmonary function test (PFT): A breathing test that shows how well your lungs are working
  • CT scan: Creates detailed chest images of the muscles, bones, organs, and blood vessels
  • Chest fluoroscopy: An X-ray that creates a series of images, which are streamed to make a video, that shows how well your lungs are functioning
  • Chest ultrasound: Takes a close look at the chest organs and structures
  • Pulse oximetry test: Determines the oxygen saturation level in your blood
  • Bronchoscopy: Examines your airway to see if there are problems with the trachea, lower airways, throat, or larynx
  • Pleural biopsy: The doctor removes a small piece of tissue sample from the pleura (the membrane surrounding your lungs) to check for disease or infection
  • Thoracentesis: The doctor removes a fluid sample from around your lungs to check for disease or infection
  • Chest tube: Used to remove air and/or fluid from around your lungs
  • Sleep study: Helps to diagnose sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea

Lung & Chest Medical Conditions

In addition, people who have been diagnosed with any of the following medical conditions, should visit a pulmonologist for specialized treatment:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis (inflammation and excess mucus)
  • Bronchitis (inflamed lower airways)
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which causes airflow blockage
  • Emphysema (damaged alveoli in the lungs)
  • Interstitial lung diseases (affects the space and tissue within the lung)
  • Occupational lung diseases from inhaling dust, chemicals, or proteins
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes breathing to slow or stop while sleeping

When Should You See a Pulmonologist?

If you notice you’re having symptoms related to your chest, lungs, or breathing, first see your primary care doctor. They will conduct a medical examination and may refer you to a pulmonologist if you have:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chronic cough that doesn’t go away
  • Blood or mucus that comes up when you cough
  • Smoking habit
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Trouble exercising due to breathing problems

What Symptoms Warrant a Pulmonologist?

It’s important to see a pulmonologist when you have any of the symptoms listed above. You don’t have to wait for your primary care provider to give you a referral for a pulmonologist. If you believe you need a pulmonary specialist, find one on your own.

In addition, when you are continually going to your primary care doctor for breathing problems, it may be time to see a lung and chest specialist. Also, when there are any abnormalities on chest X-rays and/or CT scans, a pulmonologist can help you get to the cause(s).

If you’re suffering from symptoms that may require a pulmonologist, such as a chronic cough or shortness of breath, or you’re looking for a doctor to perform pulmonary function testing in NYC, contact our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bowen.

Dr. Bowen is an experienced pulmonologist specializing in providing relief for a wide range of pulmonary symptoms for over three decades.

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