Anyone who has ever suffered from pulmonary diseases knows just how debilitating it can be. From the constant coughing and chest pain to the shortness of breath and fatigue, it’s no wonder these diseases are so prevalent. But what are pulmonary diseases, exactly? And what causes them?
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common pulmonary diseases and their risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options.
What are pulmonary diseases?
Pulmonary diseases are a group of conditions that affect the lungs. They can be caused by an infection, an environmental hazard, or simply breathing in harmful substances. Pulmonary diseases vary widely in severity, from mild to life-threatening.
Pulmonary diseases can be classified as:
Infectious Pulmonary Diseases
These are caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungus. They affect your lungs and can sometimes spread to other parts of your body.
Non-infectious Pulmonary Diseases
These are caused by a chemical or environmental hazard, such as asbestos. They affect your lungs but don’t spread to other parts of your body.
Common Types Of Pulmonary Diseases
With so many different types of pulmonary diseases, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here’s a brief overview of the most common conditions.
The inflammation and irritation of your bronchi (the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs). This can result in fever, cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
An infection in one or both lungs that causes inflammation and fluid buildup. This can result in fever, chills, body aches, and difficulty breathing.
A chronic condition where the airways narrow when they come into contact with allergens or irritants inhaled through the nose or mouth. Symptoms include wheezing or coughing during exercise, which may be triggered by cold air or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB).
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
A group of lung diseases characterized by airflow obstruction that makes it hard to breathe normally. Symptoms include shortness of breath after exertion, chronic cough, and frequent respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
What are the causes of pulmonary diseases?
Pulmonary diseases can be caused by many factors, including:
Infections are one of the most common causes of pulmonary disorders. These include pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other infections that affect the lungs.
Smoking and second-hand smoke
Smoking tobacco products is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. It can lead to lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Air pollution can irritate your lungs and make them more susceptible to infection. Cigarette smoke or other noxious fumes can cause respiratory problems and lung cancer. Moreover, some people who work near factories or manufacturing plants are more vulnerable.
Some people are born with genes that make them more susceptible to certain diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia. While they may not develop these conditions before reaching adulthood, they still have a higher chance of developing them during their lifetime than those without these genes.
Who are at risk of pulmonary diseases?
Pulmonary diseases can affect people of all ages, races, and ethnicities. However, some risk factors increase your chances of developing a pulmonary disease. Risk factors include:
The older you get, the greater your risk of developing a pulmonary disease. People over the age of 65 accounts for about half of all deaths from COPD. Other pulmonary conditions such as asthma and emphysema also become more common with age.
Men are more likely than women to develop COPD, and women are more likely than men to develop asthma or bronchiectasis (a chronic lung condition).
If someone in your family has had an obstructive lung disease like emphysema or chronic bronchitis, you’re more likely to develop one yourself. This is because of inherited genes or environmental factors that may run in families (familial aggregation).
Smoking causes about half of all cases and makes it harder to treat other lung diseases like asthma or emphysema. A person’s risk of developing pulmonary diseases increases with the amount they smoke and how long they’ve been a smoker.
Exposure to Environmental Factors
Environmental factors like air pollution, secondhand smoke, and dust can also increase your risk of developing pulmonary diseases.
What are the symptoms of pulmonary diseases?
The symptoms of these conditions vary depending on the type of disease. For example, someone with pneumonia may have a cough and fever, while someone with asthma will have difficulty breathing.
The following are some common symptoms:
Shortness of breath
When you have a pulmonary condition, you may feel as though you can’t get enough air into your lungs when you breathe in (insufficient ventilation). This is often referred to as dyspnea or being out of breath. You may also feel like you’re breathing harder than normal or that it takes longer to breathe than usual after exertion or activity.
When you have a pulmonary condition, you may cough frequently. This is often worse at night or in the early morning. A cough can be dry or productive (i.e., mucus-filled), depending on the type of disease. Chest pain
You may feel chest pain when you have a pulmonary condition, particularly if it’s caused by inflammation or infection in your lungs or airways. The pain can range from mild to severe and may feel like pressure, tightness, or burning sensations in your chest area.
When you have a pulmonary condition, you may wheeze when you breathe or exhale. This can be triggered by exercise or activity and can be worse at night or in the early morning. Wheezing is often associated with asthma, but it also occurs in other conditions.
It’s common to have a fever when you have a pulmonary condition, particularly if it’s caused by an infection. The fever can range from mild to severe and may cause chills, sweating, headaches, and body aches. These symptoms may make it difficult for you to sleep.
Fatigue is a common symptom of many pulmonary conditions, particularly if they’re caused by an infection. You may feel tired and have difficulty carrying out your daily activities. This fatigue may be accompanied by an inability to concentrate or focus on tasks at work or at home.
How are pulmonary diseases diagnosed?
A doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history before carrying out an examination of your lungs. They may also order tests to check how well your heart is working and monitor oxygen levels in your blood.
Here are other tests that your doctor may use to diagnose a pulmonary condition, including:
This test measures how well your lungs are working by measuring how much air you take in and how much force is required to push it out of your lungs
This image shows your lungs, chest wall, and heart at one time. It can help rule out other causes of your symptoms, such as tuberculosis (TB) or pneumonia caused by bacteria or viruses in the lungs. A CXR may also show signs of lung cancer or tumors in other parts of the body, like lymph nodes that drain into the chest cavity near the lungs.
This is an examination at the back of the throat and windpipe using a thin, flexible tube with a lighted lens on one end. It’s used to look inside your airways for signs of infection or inflammation.
These can show signs of infection or other problems in your lungs from the blood vessels inside them or from the heart’s oxygen supply to them.
After these tests, your doctor will know if you need to be treated for a pulmonary disease or whether you should be checked for other conditions.
How to treat pulmonary diseases?
Treatment depends on the specific disease. Some pulmonary diseases can be cured, while others are chronic and need long-term management. Treatment may include:
These include antibiotics to treat infections and other drugs to reduce symptoms such as coughing and wheezing.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove fluid or masses from your lungs. Surgery may also be used to repair the lungs or to remove part of them if they are damaged.
This involves breathing in pure oxygen through a mask that covers your nose and mouth or through tubes placed inside your nostrils or windpipe (trachea).
In cases of severe lung disease, a lung transplant may be an option. This surgery can be lifesaving for people who have chronic lung problems and whose lungs no longer work well enough to support life.
How Can I Prevent Pulmonary Diseases?
Here are some ways to help prevent pulmonary diseases:
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and COPD and can also cause emphysema. If you smoke, get help to quit now. The sooner you stop smoking, the better your health will be in the long run.
Get vaccinated against pneumonia
Pneumonia is a serious lung infection that can be prevented with vaccines. The pneumococcal vaccine helps protect against bacterial infections in the lungs, including pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumonia.
The diet you eat can affect your risk of developing pulmonary diseases. A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, beans, and nuts. Eating these foods helps reduce your risk of lung cancer and COPD.
Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent respiratory diseases. It strengthens your lungs, which helps them work better. You should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. If you can’t do that much, try 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Or break up your activity into three sessions of 10 to 15 minutes each day.
Pulmonary diseases can be serious if left untreated. The good news is most conditions are actually preventable and treatable. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms, it’s worth seeking out treatment to keep the disease in check. And as always, if you notice something’s off with your health, schedule an appointment with us.