Health issues concerning the respiratory system are common. According to the World Health Organization, about 63 million people suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses. Because the lungs are susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, respiratory illnesses have become a leading cause of death in the world. Pollution, lifestyle, exposure to allergens and chemicals, as well as an individual’s genetics are just some of the usual factors contributing to lung diseases and illnesses. Symptoms of respiratory problems can range from mild to severe and can strike both young and old alike.
Here are the most common respiratory diseases and illnesses.
Asthma is when a person experiences difficulty in breathing that is caused by the inflammation of the airways. As a result, asthmatics often suffer from dry cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. Asthma can also be caused by an allergic reaction to allergens in the environment, such as dust and pollens. This common respiratory illness is often diagnosed in childhood. However, adults can also experience a late onset of asthma, especially those who are over sixty years old.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) includes any illness that causes difficulty in breathing and not being able to exhale normally. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath and cough with sputum or the mucus from the lungs which commonly happens in the morning. The onset of COPD can be difficult for the patient to detect, as it may not have any other symptoms aside from shortness of breath. Older patients are more likely to suffer from COPD, but the disease may have been persisting for years prior to being diagnosed. COPD is usually linked to heavy smoking or being exposed to cigarette smoke.
Pneumonia is caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection in the lungs’ air sacs. As a result, patients suffering from pneumonia experience fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath which can range from mild to severe and can even be life-threatening to some people, especially for those with weakened immune systems. Those with a history of smoking can also be more susceptible to severe pneumonia.
Chronic bronchitis is an illness under the umbrella of COPD, which is characterized by chronic cough with phlegm. In most cases, patients cough up sputum, especially in the morning. The sputum is caused by an increase in the output of the mucus glands found in the lungs. Chronic bronchitis can either be caused by a viral or bacterial infection and is a long-term disease that often goes undiagnosed.
Emphysema is another form of COPD disease wherein patients experience chronic coughing, shortness of breath, and pain in exhaling air from the lungs. Over time, emphysema can eventually lead to the failure of the lungs. Heavy smokers are more susceptible to this disease since it is the cigarette smoke that damages the air sacs, trapping the air inside the lungs. However, people who are constantly exposed to harmful irritants are also at risk of developing emphysema.
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary respiratory disease that creates a thick and sticky mucus in the lungs. It is caused by a defective gene. The mucus clogs the air passage and obstructs the pancreas, making the skin almost salty-tasting. The mucus can cause infections in the lungs, as well as chronic cough, poor growth rate, and lower life expectancy rate.
Tuberculosis is a highly infectious disease that is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. There are two kinds of tuberculosis – latent and active. It is believed that most people have latent or undetected tuberculosis in their systems and that those with a weaker immune system or history of smoking can go on to develop active tuberculosis. Symptoms include cough with bloody sputum at times, chest pains, weight loss, and excessive sweating at night.
Respiratory diseases can range from mild to severe, depending largely on the state of a person’s immune system. Smoking and exposure to harmful chemicals can also result in developing problems in the lungs. In most cases, living a healthy and active lifestyle is an effective way we can reduce the risk of developing respiratory diseases.