Lung Disease and Respiratory System

Lung Disease and Respiratory System

Diseases, pollutants and genetics can affect your respiratory health. The simple cold - which is caused by more than 200 different viruses - inflames the upper respiratory tract, resulting in a cough, runny nose and sneezing. A more severe cough combined with mucus is a sign of bronchitis, where the membranes lining the bronchial tubes become inflamed. The inflammatory lung disease asthma affects more than 20 million people, making airways constrict when exposed to irritants like dust, pet dander and cigarette smoke. Pneumonia, another inflammation of the lungs, can occur because of a bacterial or viral infection. People suffering from cystic fibrosis, an inherited lung disease, frequently battle bacterial infections and airways clogged with thick and sticky mucus.

Recently Answered

  • 1 Answer
    AHealthwise answered

    Most cases of acute bronchitis go away in 2 to 3 weeks. Home treatment may help you feel better.

    Home treatment may include:

    • Relieving your cough by drinking fluids, using cough drops and avoiding lung irritants. Over-the-counter cough suppressants may help you to stop coughing. And expectorants may make coughing easier so you can bring up mucus. Cough and cold medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Before you use them, check the label. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and in some cases weight.
    • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which cause you to lose extra fluid from your body and may lead to dehydration.
    • Cutting back or stopping smoking, if you smoke.
    • Getting enough rest so your body has the energy needed to fight the infection. In general, you feel better sooner if you rest more than usual while you have acute bronchitis.
    • Using nonprescription medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, to relieve fever and body aches. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20.
    • Breathing moist air from a humidifier, hot shower or sink filled with hot water. The heat and moisture can help keep mucus in your airways moist so it can be coughed out easily.

    Contact your doctor if your acute bronchitis gets worse, because this may mean you have pneumonia. Signs of acute bronchitis getting worse include:

    • A persistent cough and increasing amounts of mucus being coughed up from the lungs (especially if the mucus is becoming thicker and has more color).
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Pain in the chest wall.
    • Ongoing fever or fever that gets worse.

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  • 1 Answer
    AHealthwise answered

    You can help prevent acute bronchitis.

    • Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, stop. People who smoke or are around others who smoke have more frequent bouts of acute bronchitis. Smoke (including secondhand smoke) reduces the body's ability to remove bacteria and viruses that can cause infections in the lungs.
    • Wear a face mask while working around irritants, such as dust. Specially designed masks are available to filter out dangerous chemicals or dust.
    • Avoid contact with those who have an upper respiratory tract infection, such as a cold, especially if you have an impaired immune system or another medical condition. Wash your hands often during the cold and flu season. If you catch a cold or influenza (flu), you are at an even higher risk for getting bronchitis.
    • Discuss with your doctor whether you should get a vaccine for the flu.

    If you have an upper respiratory tract infection, it may help to:

    • Get plenty of rest.
    • Drink enough liquids to avoid getting dehydrated.

    © Healthwise, Incorporated.

  • 1 Answer

    A number of diseases and conditions can cause lungs to become so dysfunctional that one or both of them may need to be replaced through transplantation. These can include:

    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): This disease, which mainly includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, involves obstruction of airflow through the airways and out of the lungs, and is usually permanent and progressive.
    • Pulmonary fibrosis or interstitial lung disease (ILD): ILD is a general term that includes many chronic lung disorders in which the lung is damaged, the walls of the air sacs become inflamed and then scarring (i.e., pulmonary fibrosis) begins in the tissue between the air sacs (interstitium). This causes the lungs to become stiff and smaller in volume.
    • Cystic fibrosis: This genetic disease is characterized by the production of abnormal secretions and damage to airways, leading to mucus buildup that impairs respiration when it occurs in the lungs.
    • Bronchiectasis: In this disorder, the airways become enlarged and distended, forming pockets where infection can develop. As a result, the lining of the airways become altered, which damages the lung's cleaning system and causes dust, mucus, and bacteria to accumulate, and infection to occur.
    • Pulmonary hypertension: This rare disorder in which the pressure in the pulmonary circulation is above normal levels can cause permanent damage to the lungs and become life-threatening. When there is no known cause, it is called primary pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension that occurs as a result of other disorders is called secondary pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension caused by abnormal development and defects in the heart and great vessels is called Eisenmenger's syndrome.
    • Sarcoidosis: A systemic disease in which chronic inflammation causes granulomas (small lumps) to develop in body tissues -- often in the lungs.
    • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis: This rare disease is characterized by a proliferation of muscle cells that cause the airways, blood and lymph vessels to become obstructed.
  • 1 Answer
    Symptoms of central airway obstruction include shortness of breath, recurrent pneumonias, or coughing up blood. Relief of tracheal or bronchial obstruction can often relieve these symptoms and improve quality of life for patients.
  • 1 Answer

    Immediate descent is the best treatment for high-altitude pulmonary edema. This is of the utmost urgency and should not be delayed until morning, as delay may be fatal. If oxygen is available it should be administered as well. People with high-altitude pulmonary edema usually survive if they descend soon enough and far enough, and usually recover completely.

    (This answer provided for NATA by the Marist College Athletic Training Education Program.)

  • 1 Answer
    AHealthwise answered

    Smoke inhalation occurs when a person breathes in hot air, smoke or chemical fumes, which can cause burns or swelling in the air passages. Life-threatening carbon monoxide poisoning can occur with smoke inhalation. The person may be restless, confused or violent from the smoke and toxic gases inhaled. A changed mental state may be a direct effect of the toxins or may be caused by a lack of oxygen (hypoxia). Urgent medical attention is needed for someone with symptoms of smoke inhalation. These symptoms include:

    • Difficulty breathing.
    • Noisy breathing.
    • Wheezing.
    • Hoarseness, trouble speaking or inability to speak in full sentences.
    • Coughing.
    • Dark-colored sputum.
    • A change in mental state, such as restlessness, confusion or sleepiness (lethargy).

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  • 1 Answer
    AHealthwise answered

    Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if:

    • You have chest pain that is crushing or squeezing, is increasing in intensity or occurs with any other symptoms of a heart attack.
    • You have severe difficulty breathing.
    • You are coughing up large amounts of blood (more than streaks of blood or blood mixed with mucus ).

    Call your doctor today if you:

    • Feel short of breath, even when at rest.
    • Notice new or increasing whistling sounds when breathing (wheezing) or difficulty breathing, even at rest.
    • Have a cough that frequently produces yellow or green sputum from the lungs (not postnasal drainage), lasts longer than 2 days and occurs along with a fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher.
    • Are coughing up small streaks of blood.
    • Develop symptoms of acute bronchitis and you have a chronic lung disease such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

    Call your doctor in 1 to 2 days if you:

    • Notice increased shortness of breath after any physical activity.
    • Have a cough that causes you to vomit frequently.
    • Have a cough that has lasted longer than 4 weeks.
    • Are being treated for acute bronchitis and your symptoms have not improved after 14 days of treatment.

    Watchful waiting - Watchful waiting is a period of time during which you and your doctor observe your symptoms or condition without using medical treatment. Watchful waiting is often appropriate in otherwise healthy people with acute bronchitis unless you have:

    • A persistent cough and increasing amounts of mucus being coughed up from the lungs (especially if the mucus is becoming thicker and has more color).
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Pain in the chest.
    • Ongoing fever or fever that gets worse.

    Who to see - Acute bronchitis can be diagnosed and treated by most health professionals, including:

    • Family medicine doctors.
    • General practitioners.
    • Internists.
    • Pediatricians.
    • Nurse practitioners.
    • Physician assistants.

    If you have complications, such as pneumonia or repeated episodes of acute bronchitis caused by bacteria, you may go to a pulmonologist for diagnosis and treatment. Complications rarely occur.

    © Healthwise, Incorporated.

  • 1 Answer
    When you hyperventilate, it is not because you are not getting enough oxygen. The problem is that your carbon dioxide is too low in relationship to the amount of oxygen you are taking in. (This answer provided for NATA by the University of Montana Athletic Training Education Program.)
  • 1 Answer
    AHealthwise answered

    There are no routine tests to diagnose acute bronchitis. Diagnosis is usually based on your medical history, including your symptoms and a physical exam. Your doctor will make sure you do not have pneumonia or risk factors for more serious diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), that may affect treatment.

    If your doctor feels that your acute bronchitis is caused by:

    • A virus, then no more testing is needed in most cases.
    • Bacteria, then more testing may be done and antibiotics may be prescribed.

    More testing may be needed for infants and people older than 65, or if:

    • Acute bronchitis does not clear up in 2 to 3 weeks.
    • Pneumonia, heart failure, or tuberculosis is suspected or has been recently diagnosed.
    • Your immune system is not functioning well ( impaired immune system ). People with immune problems are more likely to develop complications, such as pneumonia.
    • You have a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
    • You do not get better with antibiotic therapy, or you require hospitalization.
    • You have a heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute, a respiratory rate greater than 24 breaths per minute and a fever greater than 100.4°F (38°C).
    • Whooping cough, a bacterial infection of the respiratory system, is suspected.
    • Influenza (flu), a viral upper respiratory illness, is suspected.

    Sometimes other tests may be needed. These tests may include:

    • Chest X-ray. The result of a chest X-ray of people who have acute bronchitis is usually normal.
    • Gram stain and culture and sensitivity of the mucus from the lungs. These tests may help your doctor find out if bacteria are causing the infection and which antibiotic will be effective.
    • Other tests, including tests to measure blood oxygen levels and tests that can help identify bacteria and viruses. The test results can help your doctor know whether acute bronchitis is seriously harming lung function.

    © Healthwise, Incorporated.

  • 2 Answers
    AHealthwise answered

    Symptoms of acute bronchitis usually begin 3 to 4 days after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold or influenza (flu). Symptoms usually include:

    • A cough, which is the main symptom of acute bronchitis. It may be dry at first (does not produce mucus) and after a few days may bring up mucus from the lungs (productive cough). The mucus may be clear, yellow or green. Sometimes, small streaks of blood may be present.
    • A mild fever, usually less than 101°F (38.3°C). A higher fever may indicate pneumonia.
    • A general feeling of tiredness.
    • A sensation of tightness, burning or dull pain in the chest under the breastbone that usually is worse when breathing deeply or coughing.
    • Whistling noises (wheezing) when breathing, especially during physical exertion.
    • Hoarseness.

    Most cases of acute bronchitis in otherwise healthy people last only 2 to 3 weeks. But more than 20% of people with acute bronchitis have a cough that lasts more than 4 weeks.

    Often it is hard to tell the difference between viral and bacterial forms of acute bronchitis, and many conditions have symptoms similar to acute bronchitis, such as asthma and pneumonia. Because pneumonia can be a serious complication, it is important to know the differences between acute bronchitis and pneumonia. For example, a high fever, shaking chills and shortness of breath often occur with pneumonia but not with acute bronchitis.

    © Healthwise, Incorporated.

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