When you think of the term “internal medicine,” your immediate thought might be a provider specializing in diseases and disorders that affect a person’s internal organs.
While that description is close, the term “internal medicine” is often misleading because it doesn’t just involve treating internal organs. It’s all-encompassing and involves preventing, diagnosing, and managing all types of diseases in adults.
You might be wondering, “Isn’t that what a family medical provider does?” Not quite!
We’ll help clear up confusion by explaining the difference between internal and family medicine, highlighting common disorders in adults, and discussing when it’s best to visit an internist.
The difference between internal medicine and family medicine
Internal medicine and family medicine are very similar. Both offer care for patients seeking treatments for ailments, chronic illness, and injuries. However, there are a few key differences.
The most significant difference between the two practices is that internal medicine is only for adults, while providers specializing in family medicine work with patients of all ages.
What is an internist?
A medical provider who has training in internal medicine is called an internist. Internists treat adults suffering from non-surgical illnesses and injuries while also helping prevent chronic diseases commonly affecting adults as they age.
Below are the types of providers who specialize in internal medicine:
Internist: A provider who has the training to care for adults only
Med-Peds: A provider who has the training for combined internal medicine and pediatrics
Family practitioners: A provider who has the training in pediatrics, internal medicine, gynecology, orthopedics, minor surgical procedures, and more to care for all ages of patients
Some internists may choose to subspecialize in one particular illness or one area of the body. Internists typically receive their bachelor’s degree, go on to four years of medical school, and then finish up with three years of medical residency.
Internist subspecialties may take an additional 1-4 years of schooling and can include:
- Allergy and Immunology (immune system disorders)
- Cardiology (heart disorders)
- Gastroenterology (digestive system disorders)
- Infectious diseases
- Hematology (blood and bone disorders)
- Nephrology (kidney disorders)
- Rheumatology (musculoskeletal disorders)
- Pulmonology (lung disorders)
- Medical oncology (cancer)
Depending on an internist’s subspecialty, a patient may go to one internist starting at the age of 18, and continue to see that same provider for the rest of their life. This means internists can develop long-term patient-provider relationships as a personal physician throughout someone’s adult life.
Internists diagnose and treat many common conditions
Internists diagnose and help treat a wide range of disorders and diseases in adults. They also educate, monitor, and prevent certain types of diseases from occurring within adults by providing preventative measures like cancer screenings and mammograms.
Common conditions and disorders treated by internists include:
- Acute illness
- Acute injuries
- High blood pressure
- Coronary heart disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Neurological problems
- Diseases of the heart, lungs, stomach, liver, pancreas, and colon
- Mental health
When to visit an internist
Internists provide patients with comprehensive health services. Whether you’re feeling ill, need to update your vaccinations, or it’s time for your annual physical, you can visit an internist. Many of these providers offer a holistic approach to wellness and treat a wide variety of medical problems.
You might see an internist for:
- Weight management
- Family planning
- Disease prevention
Find an internist at Voyage Healthcare
No matter your medical needs, the internists at Voyage Healthcare are eager to help treat and prevent conditions in adult patients.