What Are the Different Types of Internal Medicine?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Internal medicine includes doctors who specialize in gastric disorders, the lungs, the circulatory system, and heart. Some internists treat patients who suffer from diseases of the endocrine system, while others address problems in the joints or soft tissues. General internists typically work with patients who suffer from disorders of the stomach, kidneys, liver, or intestinal system. Nephrologists treat kidney disorders, which might include treating patients with dialysis. Oncologists specialize in cancer and help the patient choose the best therapy.

This branch of medicine deals with any disorder inside the body, commonly performed by specialists trained in a specific system or organ. Physicians who practice internal medicine typically diagnose and treat adult patients for certain disorders. They receive additional training and schooling in a specialty or sub-specialty, and are often consulted by other doctors. Internal medicine involves the use of drugs or other therapies to treat patients, but internists usually do not perform surgeries.

General internal medicine consists of doctors who might serve as a patient’s primary care doctor, similar to general practitioners. They might be doctors of medicine (M.D.) or osteopathic doctors (O.D). Osteopathic doctors generally employ holistic medicine and preventative care, but doctors in both these fields of internal medicine also treat patients with drugs and surgery. About half of all doctors working in internal medicine are generalists, who typically treat an entire family.


An oncologist works in a sub-specialty of internal medicine and diagnoses and treats cancer. A medical oncologist typically uses chemotherapy, while a radiation oncologist employs radiation to treat patients. A surgical oncologist determines the stage of cancer, performs biopsies, and repairs internal organs damaged by malignancies. An oncologist explains the disease to patients and aids them in choosing a treatment option. He or she also treats pain associated with cancer.

Nephrology is a type of medicine that deals with the kidneys and renal system. A doctor working in this field might treat kidney stones or renal failure. He or she also sees patients with fluid or electrolyte imbalances and those who require kidney transplants. A nephrologist commonly works closely with a urologist, but a nephrologist does not perform the actual surgery.

Sub-specialties exist in many areas of internal medicine. Cardiologists deal with heart disease or disorders of the arteries. They also treat birth defects of the heart.

Specialists of the gastrointestinal tract are called gastroenterologists, treating disorders of the esophagus, colon, and intestines, including the formation of ulcers. Hematologists address blood and bone marrow diseases, including leukemia. Pulmonologists treat the lungs, while immunologists deal with disorders of the immune system.


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