Common problems treated by respiratory physicians include chronic cough; obstructive airway diseases like bronchial asthma and smoking related lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema; chest infections (pneumonia); cancers of the lung and sleep apnoea syndromes.

Common problems treated by respiratory physicians include chronic cough; obstructive airway diseases like bronchial asthma and smoking related lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema; chest infections (pneumonia); cancers of the lung and sleep apnoea syndromes.

Respiratory medicine refers to the study and treatment of diseases that affect the respiratory system. The system consists of the nose and paranasal sinuses; the pharynx, which is the common passage for air and food; the larynx, where the voice if produced; and the trachea, bronchi and lungs.

Common problems treated by respiratory physicians include chronic cough; obstructive airway diseases like bronchial asthma and smoking related lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema; chest infections (pneumonia); cancers of the lung and sleep apnoea syndromes.

Chronic cough is a common problem and may be due to a variety of causes; airway hypersensitivity after an upper respiratory tract infection, asthma, post-nasal drip, gastro-oesaphageal reflux (heartburn), tuberculosis, cancer of the lung or drug induced cough. A detailed history and physical examination with simple radiological and laboratory tests often enable the respiratory physician to find the cause and treat it successfully.

Asthma and smoking related lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema often cause disabling symptoms like cough, breathlessness, chest tightness, and may sometimes even be fatal. Respiratory physicians manage these chronic diseases through patient education and individualising drug therapy according to the severity of the problem. Lung function and exercise tests as well as skin prick tests for identifying sensitivities to common allergens may also be done if necessary. Asthma due to sensitivity to an allergen at the workplace occupational asthma) are often curable if identified early. Patients with chronic bronchitis and emphysema may be prescribed chest physiotherapy and breathing exercises to improve their well being.

Cancers of the lung are often diagnosed by respiratory physicians with biopsy of the tumours obtained through fibreoptic bronchoscopy. Fitness for surgical removal if feasible is assessed with the help of CT scanning, simple laboratory and lung function tests. Respiratory physicians work hand-in-hand with thoracic surgeons, oncologists and radiotherapists in choosing the best method of treatment for the patient. Highly specialised procedures like resection of obstructing tumours by laser bronchoscopy and insertion of stent in the airways are sometimes performed to alleviate life-threatening complications.

Loud habitual snoring may be more than just a noisy problem. It may indicate the presence of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome; a condition in which the patient suffers from repeated obstruction to breathing while asleep due to narrowing in the throat region. Both breathing and sleep are disturbed and the patient often feels very lethargic and sleepy in the daytime. This is a common but often unrecognised problem. Patients with suspected sleep apnoea syndrome are assessed by respiratory physicians and the diagnosis confirmed with a sleep study (polysomnography). Specific treatment (e.g. nasal CPAP) can then be prescribed.

Respiratory physicians also prescribe specialised treatment like long term home oxygen therapy and non-invasive home ventilation (via nasal ventilator) for patients with chronic lung failure due to a variety of diseases.

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