Respiratory Medicine

Respiratory Medicine Doesn't Only Treat the Lungs

Respiratory system diseases are like every other disease, they come from a base cause. The thing about this basic cause is that it is hard to discern. In many cases, that cause may not even have its origin in the respiratory system. Respiratory medicine has a tendency to treat just the disorder. This does not solve the issue, however, because even as the symptoms are alleviated, the underlying cause is still going strong and any progress will soon be reversed. It is necessary when treating respiratory system disease to know that all other bodily systems are connected, and we must discover where the disease originates. Only by unveiling that cause and treating it, can we effectively hope to realize lasting treatment of respiratory medicine.

 

Consider the following scenario: A person with a respiratory system disease comes to us. She is undernourished because she has difficulty eating. She is overtired because she lies awake at night, unable to sleep because she worries. Her blood pressure is high and her heart has a slightly irregular beat. She has gotten her diagnosis and is scared. As we start to take a history, both medical and psychological, the levels start to peel away and, with enough time and effort, we get to the main problem. It seems she has experienced anxiety since she was a child. As she got older, she would use eating and smoking tobacco as coping mechanisms. The food she ate put weight on, but it wasn't good weight and eventually, the extra weight put stress on her heart. In the meantime, the cigarettes are damaging her lungs. The heart irregularity is creating a situation where oxygen isn't able to be pumped through her system efficiently. She worries more, is depressed, and the anxiety increases, lessening sleep quality. In this case, the anxiety she had as a child has led indirectly to the present respiratory system disease. Unless the anxiety is treated, the rest will not be successful for it is a circle that must be broken.

 

Respiratory medicine that is likely to heal this woman begins with treating the respiratory symptoms but must also include nutrition education, sleep medicine, and anxiety-reducing activities. As one area improves, the rest follow suit, but they must be addressed as one package and not alone.

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For any questions you have, you can reach me here:

Sam Kim MBBS (UQ) FRACP MPH MBA MMED (USyd)

Consultant Physician, Royal Australasian College of Physicians

Respiratory & Sleep Medicine

 

Graduate Law Student, Juris Doctor Program

Deakin Law School, Melbourne 

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