The term pathology itself may be used broadly to refer to the study of disease in general, incorporating a wide range of bioscience research fields and medical practices (including plant pathology and veterinary pathology), or more narrowly to describe work within the contemporary medical field of "general pathology," which includes a number of distinct but interrelated medical specialties that diagnose disease mostly through analysis of tissue, cell, and body fluid samples. A pathological condition is the one caused by disease, rather than occurring physiologically. A physician practicing pathology is called a pathologist.
As a field of general inquiry and research, pathology addresses four components of disease: cause or etiology, mechanisms of development (pathogenesis), structural alterations of cells (morphologic changes), and the consequences of changes (clinical manifestations). In common medical practice, general pathology is mostly concerned with analyzing known clinical abnormalities that are markers or precursors for both infectious and non-infectious disease and is conducted by experts in one of two major specialties, anatomical pathology and clinical pathology. Further divisions in specialty exist on the basis of the involved sample types (for example, cytopathology, hematopathology, and histopathology), organs (as in renal pathology), and physiological systems (oral pathology), as well as on the basis of the focus of the examination (forensic pathology).