Many breathing problems are chronic or long-term, leading to discomfort and preventing you and your body from functioning properly. If you’re struggling to catch your breath, we want to help. Premier Medical Associates has a pulmonology team to provide respiratory medicine, testing, and care for pneumonia, tuberculosis, emphysema, and more breathing problems. And should you require hospitalization at any time, team members Dr. Shari and Dr. Obringer will quickly provide care or coordinate care with Premier’s hospitalist team at Forbes Hospital and UPMC East - making your medical journey as easy on you as possible. If the simple act of breathing ever stops being simple, contact us and allow us to help you find relief.

Premier Medical Associates, an affiliate of the Allegheny Health Network, is the largest multi-specialty physician practice in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Our pulmonary specialists see patients in our offices at One Monroeville Center and at West Penn Hospital.

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FAQs on Pulmonology & Respiratory Care:

How Will I Know When I Need To See A Pulmonologist?

A pulmonologist is a physician who specializes in the respiratory system. These physicians specialize in treating breathing problems and symptoms throughout this system. While short-lasting illnesses of the respiratory system can often be managed by your regular doctor, a pulmonologist is your resource for chronic cough, shortness of breath, and other respiratory symptoms.

What Are Examples Of Procedures Conducted By This Specialist?

When you visit with a pulmonologist, they may use a range of different testing tools to determine how healthy your lungs are - or aren’t - overall. Examples of procedures we may conduct to help diagnose your condition include the following:

  • Bronchoscopy: A bronchoscopy procedure is an endoscopic technique that allows doctors to look within the body without invasive surgery. During a bronchoscopy, a thin tube (bronchoscope) is inserted through the nose or mouth into the lungs. This specialized test then helps doctors examine your lungs and air passages, more closely than x-rays and other tests allow. This test can also help doctors obtain samples of mucus or tissue; remove foreign bodies or other blockages from the airways or lungs; or even provide treatment for lung problems.
  • Pulmonary Stress Test: A pulmonary stress test is an exercise test that tells us how much air moves in and out of your lungs during activity that elevates your heart rate above a resting level. During the test, you will ride a stationary bike and sophisticated equipment will measure your vitals, giving us crucial insight into your overall physical function.
  • Pulmonary Function Test: Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are noninvasive tests that show how well the lungs are working. These tests use equipment such as a spirometer (i.e. a device with a mouthpiece hooked up to a small electronic machine) to measure your overall health and function. This test measures lung volume and capacity, gas exchange, and rates of flow, reveal how well the lungs are - or are not - working.

What Are Examples Of Conditions A Specialist Can Help With?

Our pulmonology team provides respiratory medicine to patients to advance the treatment of multiple conditions. Examples of conditions that we can help with include pneumonia, tuberculosis, and emphysema.

Keep reading to learn more about our care for these illnesses:

PNEUMONIA

  • About: Pneumonia is a common infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. Often, the inflammation is accompanied by fluid or pus. It's important to note that pneumonia is not the same as the common cold or the flu, both of which are specific viral infections. Pneumonia can, however, be a complication of the flu.
  • Types: There are different types of pneumonia, which are categorized by their cause. Bacterial pneumonia, for example, is caused by various bacteria. Viral pneumonia is the result of certain viruses, and is responsible for about one-third of all pneumonia cases. And while less common, some pneumonia strains are caused by fungi and other infection sources.
  • Symptoms: Pneumonia symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Symptoms will naturally vary based on the type of pneumonia and the overall health of a patient prior to becoming sick. The signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include cough (with greenish or yellow mucus), fever, sweating, chills, shortness of breath and/or shallow breathing, chest pain when breathing, and flu-like symptoms (i.e. loss of appetite, low energy, nausea).
  • Treatment: Pneumonia treatment depends on the type of pneumonia a patient is suffering from. Viral cases of pneumonia, for example, are difficult to address due to their source (i.e. a virus). Bacterial strains, however, may be treated with antibiotics. The severity of the pneumonia is also a major factor in treatment. The most severe cases, and those with complications, will require medical care in a hospital. Mild and average cases, on the other hand, can be managed at home. Age is also a major factor in treatment needs. Treatment for pneumonia in adults often includes home management of symptoms, although a doctor can be contacted if coughing prevents you from resting; if breathing fails to improve or worsens over time; and if follow-up care after hospitalization is needed. Pneumonia treatment for kids, on the other hand, can quickly become more involved due to the age and size of these younger patients. Because of this, parents should contact their pediatrician promptly if they suspect pneumonia and follow all care directions accordingly.
  • Recovery: Most people’s recovery time from pneumonia is about a week. However, depending on the severity of the illness, patients may feel lingering effects from their bout with pneumonia for weeks following their initial onset of symptoms. Patients are encouraged to speak to their doctors as they recover to see if anything can be done to make them more comfortable.

EMPHYSEMA

  • About: Emphysema is a long-term (i.e. chronic) and progressive disease of the lungs, and is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Most cases of emphysema are due to cigarette smoking. Emphysema creates breathing problems in patients due to the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) being damaged over time. This damage, in turn, reduces the ability of the lungs to do their job, i.e. to provide oxygen to the patient and their body.

  • Types: There are three types of emphysema that are categorized based on their presentation. Centriacinar emphysema refers to cases where damage to the lungs primarily spreads in the upper half of the lungs; this type is also often associated with cigarette use. Panacinar emphysema typically develops in the lower half of the lungs, and is connected to a genetic disease. And paraseptal emphysema - which is associated with inflammation and prior lung problems and infections - is most likely to localize within the intricate structures of the lung's many tissues, membranes, and air sacs.

  • Symptoms: Shortness of breath and chronic cough are the main symptoms of emphysema, and are the two symptoms that appear early in the development of the disease. Over time, patients are likely to also suffer from frequent lung infections; wheezing; fatigue; blue-tinged lips and fingernail beds (due to lack of oxygen); sleep problems; and anxiety and depression.

  • Treatment: Treatment for this condition depends heavily on how advanced it is. And while emphysema cannot be cured, it can be managed and patients can keep it from becoming worse. Inhalers (with bronchodilator medications or steroids), antibiotics, oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation are all helpful tools in treating this health issue.

TUBERCULOSIS

  • About: Tuberculosis (TB) is a rare bacterial infection that affects the lungs. TB bacteria are spread via an infected individual's coughing or sneezing. Though cases of this disease are rare overall, patients with TB can be found throughout the United States; and this condition can be fatal if it’s not properly treated. If you think you've been exposed to someone with tuberculosis, call your doctor.

  • Types: While all cases of TB are bacterial in nature, this disease can fall into several different categories. "Active TB disease" refers to when an individual is experiencing symptoms due to the rapid growth of the TB bacteria and infection. "Miliary TB" is a rare subset of active TB that occurs specifically when the bacteria get into a patient's bloodstream. The remaining TB infections are referred to as "latent infections", because these individuals do not develop symptoms. Still, in these cases, patients may develop active TB later in time; and patients remain contagious as long as they are infected, even if they are not suffering from side effects themselves. To diagnose these different types of TB, a TB test (that may include skin and/or blood tests) will be necessary.

  • Symptoms: Many people infected with TB bacteria do not have symptoms. In cases where symptoms do develop, patients often suffer from a persistent (sometimes blood-tinged) cough, fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, and night sweats.

  • Treatment: Tuberculosis treatment varies from person to person. Because many cases of TB do not present with symptoms, many patients require minimal preventative care while their bodies fight off the inactive bacteria. Patients with active symptoms, however, will require a long course (i.e. six to nine months) of treatment involving multiple antibiotics.

  • Recovery: Recovering from active TB can take months. However, once you begin to receive treatment, symptoms will improve within a matter of weeks. Because TB bacteria take so long to respond to antibiotics, you MUST adhere to your treatment schedule from beginning to end; otherwise, you may not be able to eliminate your infection.

What Should I Expect From A Visit With Your Team?

Premier Medical Associates, an affiliate of the Allegheny Health Network, is the largest multi-specialty physician practice in the Greater Pittsburgh area. When you meet with our primary care providers and respiratory specialists, you’ll meet with professionals who are ready to take the lead in providing care and testing that will make the act breathing easier and will improve your overall health. And should you require hospitalization at any time, team members Dr. Shari and Dr. Obringer will quickly provide care or coordinate care with Premier’s hospitalist team at Forbes Hospital and UPMC East - making your medical journey as easy on you as possible.

Our pulmonary specialists see patients in our offices at One Monroeville Center and at West Penn Hospital.