What Exactly is an Internal Medicine Physician, or Internist?


When it comes to selecting a primary care physician, you might be confused about the differences between internal medicine and family medicine. Both internists and family practitioners offer primary care and treat a wide range of health issues and concerns, but there are some differences.

At Prima Medicine, in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, our board-certified internal medicine providers offer comprehensive primary care and chronic condition care. To help you understand what’s involved in internal medicine and what it is an internist does, we’ve created this guide.

Take a moment to learn more about internal medicine, the differences between internists and family practitioners, and the ways your Prima Medicine provider can help you enjoy optimal health.

Internal medicine vs. family medicine

Internal medicine physicians, or internists, and family practitioners have some similarities. Both are primary care providers rather than specialists who treat one area of the body. As such, both are physicians who treat a wide range of illnesses and health concerns.

However, the main difference is the focus. Family practitioners have an overall view on health issues, and they treat all members of the family unit, from children to grandparents. Internists, on the other hand, focus on adults. Internists have intensive and comprehensive training on diseases and issues that affect men and women aged 18 years and older.

A closer look at internal medicine

As mentioned, an internist focuses on health issues that affect adults. This focus, however, covers a lot of ground. Here’s an in-depth look at the care internists can provide.

Seeing the big picture

Internists look at the “big picture” of a patient’s health. They know that everything is integrated, and so they look at the patient’s lifestyle, health history, and entire bodily system, to diagnose issues and help prevent problems from occurring.

Wide-ranging care

Internists address a host of issues regarding adult medicine, including the following:

  • Diabetes management
  • Heart and blood pressure issues
  • Weight and nutrition
  • Chronic joint and bone conditions
  • Viral infections and allergies
  • Behavioral health
  • Digestive issues
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Annual physical exams

This list is by no means exhaustive, but know that no matter the need you have, an internist can either treat you or direct you to someone who can.

An eye on prevention

Internists are also focused on preventing health problems and optimizing health. For example, being obese can contribute to the development of a host of health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. So, if a patient starts gaining excess weight, an internist can design a plan to help them lose the pounds.

A central hub

Internal medicine physicians offer patient-centric, comprehensive care. In short, this means that they can act as the central hub for all of your health care needs. For example, if you have an ongoing chronic condition, such as diabetes, your internist can monitor your condition as well as coordinate with specialists, such as podiatrists, endocrinologists, and dietitians.

Ongoing care

Patients often stay with their internal medicine provider for decades. This, in turn, can facilitate the development of trust and foster a deep connection between the health care provider and the patient. Your internist can treat your health issues and offer counseling and guidance to protect your health as your needs change over time.

To learn more about internal medicine and to see how this type of health care can help you, book an appointment online or over the phone with Prima Medicine today.

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