If you are a prospecting doctor, the world of internal medicine can be a fascinating one—it delves deep into the intricacies of adult health and well-being. Internal medicine isn’t just about treating symptoms; it’s about uncovering the root causes of illnesses and crafting personalized solutions for each patient. 

Understanding what internal medicine is essential for patients and medical professionals alike, as it provides a grasp on the most effective treatments that can reach the best possible treatment outcomes.

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In this blog post, we explore the significance of internal medicine in healthcare, disentangle the diverse array of conditions it addresses and its various subspecialties, and discuss what an internist does.

What Is Internal Medicine?

Internal medicine is a medical field specifically focused on preventing, diagnosing, and treating diseases in adults. This field encompasses a broad scope of healthcare, addressing a wide range of medical conditions that affect internal organs and systems.

Doctors of internal medicine—commonly known as internists—are skilled in managing complex and multifaceted illnesses involving the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, digestive tract, and other internal systems. Their expertise extends from handling acute medical issues and infections to managing chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Through thorough and ongoing care, internal medicine significantly contributes to upholding and enhancing the overall health and welfare of adult patients.

What Is an Internal Medicine Doctor and What Do They Do?

Internal medicine is a vast subspeciality, and as such, internal medicine doctors are specialists who provide comprehensive healthcare to adults. Internists play a critical role in the medical field, focusing on diagnosing a wide range of illnesses, managing chronic conditions, and promoting preventive care.

Their typical duties include conducting thorough physical examinations, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, developing and overseeing treatment plans, and monitoring and managing chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. As they have deep knowledge of all internal organs, their job is also to refer patients to specialists and coordinate care with these specialists when necessary.

Internists are adept at handling complex medical cases, often involving multiple conditions simultaneously. They emphasize preventive measures, such as lifestyle modifications and regular screenings, to maintain and improve overall health.

By offering holistic and continuous care, internal medicine doctors ensure their patients receive personalized and effective medical attention throughout their lives.

How to Become an Internal Medicine Doctor

Becoming an internal medicine doctor requires extensive education and training. Below is a concise summary outlining the primary steps:

  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: Typically in a science-related field.
  • Pass the MCAT: The Medical College Admission Test is required for entry into medical school.
  • Complete Medical School: A four-year program leading to an MD or DO degree.
  • Finish a Residency in Internal Medicine: Usually, a three-year program where you receive specialized training.
  • Obtain a Medical License: Pass the necessary licensing exams.
  • Consider Fellowship Training: Optional additional training in a subspecialty.

For a more detailed guide on the path to becoming an internal medicine doctor, visit our dedicated blog on how to become a doctor of internal medicine.

Subspecialties in Internal Medicine

Internal medicine includes various subspecialties, enabling doctors to specialize in specific aspects of adult healthcare. These subspecialties include:

  • cardiology, which deals with heart conditions;
  • gastroenterology, focusing on digestive system disorders;
  • endocrinology, addressing hormonal imbalances;
  • rheumatology, which treats autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, among others.

Each subspecialty provides targeted expertise for managing complex health issues within its domain. For an in-depth look at these and other subspecialties, be sure to read our blog post on internal medicine subspecialties.

Medical Conditions Treated by Internal Medicine Physicians

Internal medicine physicians manage a wide variety of medical conditions, showcasing their diverse expertise and comprehensive care approach. Common conditions they treat include:

  • Hypertension: Management of high blood pressure to prevent serious complications like heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease through medications and lifestyle modifications.
  • Diabetes: Blood sugar control using diet, exercise, medication, and regular monitoring to prevent complications such as neuropathy, retinopathy, and cardiovascular issues.
  • Heart Disease: Treatment of conditions like coronary artery disease, heart failure, and arrhythmias with medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes collaboration with cardiologists.
  • Respiratory Disorders: Management of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pneumonia with inhalers, medications, and respiratory therapies to improve lung function and quality of life.
  • Digestive Issues: Addressing gastrointestinal problems such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with dietary guidance, medications, and lifestyle adjustments.
  • Endocrine Disorders: Treatment of hormonal imbalances, including thyroid disorders, metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, using medications, hormone replacement therapies, and lifestyle interventions.
  • Rheumatologic Conditions: Management of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and gout with anti-inflammatory medications, disease-modifying drugs, and coordinated care with rheumatologists.

These conditions highlight the broad range of medical issues internal medicine physicians handle, emphasizing their ability to provide comprehensive and continuous care to adult patients.

When Should You See an Internist?

Internists are the go-to healthcare professionals for a variety of health concerns and needs. They can help with routine check-ups, preventive care, management of chronic and acute medical conditions, coordination of specialized care, and health concerns related to aging.

For example, if you have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease, an internist can provide comprehensive management and monitoring to keep your condition under control.

As internists are well-equipped to handle a wide range of health issues, they are skilled in conducting thorough evaluations of your overall health. They dig deep into your medical history, perform physical examinations, and order appropriate tests to detect any underlying health issues. This comprehensive approach instills confidence in their ability to provide the best care for you.

Besides, internists are a go-to for preventative care and health screenings. They emphasize preventive care and can recommend and administer screenings for conditions such as cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. This proactive approach empowers you to take control of your health, catching potential problems early and intervening accordingly.

Internal medicine physicians are also the first choice for those with acute medical conditions. Whether you’re experiencing symptoms of an acute illness like the flu, pneumonia, or urinary tract infection, an internist can diagnose and provide treatment to help you recover quickly.

Lastly, if your health issues cannot be pinpointed by a single specialist doctor, then having a visit to an internist is a good choice as they are equipped to coordinate specialized care.  This means that they will work closely with all your specialists, ensuring that all aspects of your care are integrated and optimized for your overall well-being. They will also be your main point of contact, making it easier for you to manage your healthcare journey.

Health Benefits of Seeing an Internist

Seeing an internist offers invaluable health benefits rooted in their extensive expertise and specialized approach to care. Internists possess exceptional diagnostic skills honed through years of training and experience, enabling them to accurately identify and address a wide spectrum of health issues. Their proficiency in preventive care goes beyond routine check-ups. Internists prioritize preventive interventions tailored to individual health risks. This way, they ensure early detection and timely management of potential health threats. 

Moreover, internal medicine doctors excel in managing complex medical conditions, drawing on their comprehensive knowledge and multidisciplinary approach to develop personalized treatment plans that optimize health outcomes. By seeking care from an internist, patients gain access to a trusted healthcare partner dedicated to promoting wellness, preventing disease, and effectively managing chronic conditions for a healthier, more fulfilling life.


Internal medicine plays a crucial role in adult healthcare, providing comprehensive prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for a wide range of conditions. Doctors of internal medicine are essential for managing complex illnesses and promoting overall health. If you’re seeking thorough and continuous medical care, consider consulting an internal medicine physician. For those interested in pursuing this rewarding field, explore further resources and educational opportunities at the American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUAMED) to start your journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does an internal medicine doctor make?

As of May 2024, the average salary for an internist in the United States is $243,800. However, various factors such as location, experience, and subspeciality can influence the earning potentials of internists. 

How long is an internal medicine residency?

Internal medicine residency typically lasts three years. During the first year, resident interests focus on foundational clinical skills and exposure to various subspecialties. In the second year, residents increase their responsibility in patient care and decision-making. During this year, they are focused on specialized rotations and electives based on areas of interest. In the last year of residency, internists refine their clinical skills and leadership in managing patient care teams. 

What is the difference between family medicine and internal medicine?

Family medicine and internal medicine are both primary care specialties, but they serve different patient populations and have distinct focuses. Family medicine treats patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, and provides comprehensive care that includes pediatrics, obstetrics, and general adult medicine. In contrast, internists focus on diagnosing, treating, and managing complex adult diseases and chronic conditions.

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