Internal Medicine

What is Internal Medicine?

Internal medicine specifically focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases. Rather than focusing on one system of the body, an internist covers the diagnosis and treatment of the entire body and treats both common and complex adult illnesses. Often an individual will stay with one internist throughout all stages of their adult life. Diagnosis and treatment can either take place in the office or a hospital setting depending on the severity of treatment needed.

What is an Internist?

An internist is a doctor that specializes in diagnosing and performing nonsurgical treatment of diseases in adults. They can also serve as a primary care doctor. Internists have a much broader skill set in comparison to a specialist. They care for the entire spectrum of diseases and ailments aside from specific diseases that require expert care from a specialist. Internists are often the consultant to other doctors to help treat symptoms that are difficult to diagnose.

What Does an Internist Do?

An internist is a primary care doctor that focuses on adult medical care no matter how common or rare the illness may be. They can also care for those individuals who may experience multiple severe chronic illnesses at one time. Internists are specially trained and skilled in a wide variety of areas of medicine including health promotion, health maintenance, disease prevention and patient education.

When an individual needs different types of care, internists provide coordinated care with other medical specialists. They work closely with those specialists to develop a plan of action to not only get patients healthy, but to maintain wellness in the years ahead.

Internists also serve as consultants to other internal medicine subspecialties including:
Nephrology: diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease.
Hematology: prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease in the blood stream.
Oncology: treatment of cancer.
Pulmonology: diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases.
Endocrinology: endocrine system and the regulation of bodily hormones.
Gastroenterology: functions of the stomach and intestines.
Cardiology: treatment of heart disease.

What Conditions Does an Internist Treat?

An internist is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of adult diseases and ailments. They may choose to focus their practice on general internal medicine or focus on a specialized area of training. Comprehensive care from an internist can take place in a hospital or clinical setting and they are trained to diagnose and treat much of the following:

  • Disease prevention, overall wellness, and health promotion.
  • Common problems with the skin, ears, and eyes.
  • Diagnosis of unidentified symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, etc.
  • Preventive screenings including mammograms, pap smears, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc.
  • Collaborative care and treatment in patients affected with cancer and other diseases of the kidneys, respiratory, heart, blood and vascular systems.

What Services Does an Internist Perform?

Internists perform any number of services depending on the individual seeking care. Services can be performed because of symptoms or simply as a preventative measure. Depending on age and history of the patient, each service may be different.

Routine Physical Exam: An essential part of a doctor’s visit is an overall exam. This is a time where the internist will listen to any concerns the patient may. It’s also the time when the patient needs to be 100 percent open with their internist by telling them of all lifestyle habits including diet, sexual health, daily alcohol intake, smoking and regular exercise. An internist will also take the time to listen to their heart to hear any irregularities like an irregular heartbeat, heart murmur or other clues to heart disease. Blood pressure will also be measured to check for high blood pressure or hypertension. In addition, lung function will be checked to make sure breathing is healthy.



Even before the patient notices any symptoms, an internist may perform or refer specific screenings to diagnose a disease. Some commonly screened diseases include, but are not limited to:

  • High cholesterol: internists measure the cholesterol levels of blood. Results below 200 are most desirable, while anything above 240 is considered high.
  • High blood pressure: an internist can determine whether or not hypertension is an issue. Normal levels are less than 120. Hypertensive crisis occurs when blood pressure levels are higher than 180.
  • Obesity: through a variety of measurements such as body mass index (BMI) and metabolic rate an internist can diagnose and treat obesity.
  • Diabetes: through an FPG test, glucose (sugar) levels in the blood are measured to determine whether or not an individual has diabetes. Normal levels of glucose are between 70 and 100.
  • Breast Cancer: mammograms are one of the best ways for early detection of breast cancer.
  • Cervical Cancer: a pap smear test helps to identify whether or not pre-cancers are present in the cervix.
  • Colorectal Cancer: there are different options for testing for colorectal cancer.
  • Prostate Cancer: your internist may do a routine prostate screening at your exam.

Benefits of UnityPoint Clinic Internal Medicine

Our internal medicine team at UnityPoint Clinic is a knowledgeable and skilled group of doctors committed to delivering coordinated, quality care to every patient. Research shows that people who have an ongoing relationship with a primary care doctor, such as a family doctor or internist, have better overall health outcomes, lower death rates and lower costs of care. Our team of internists is committed to providing a lifetime of care to keep you and your family at their healthiest!