Respiratory disease

What Is Respiratory Disease?

Respiratory disease is classified as any of the disorders and/or diseases that affect respiration. Respiratory disease pertains to conditions associated with the airways and lungs, and can affect the trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, alveoli, and upper respiratory tract. Mild forms of respiratory disease can manifest as conditions such as the common cold. More serious forms of respiratory disease include: bronchitis, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, asthma, and lung cancer.

What Causes Respiratory Disease?

Respiratory disease can be triggered by several different causes. Genetic factors, smoking, inhaling toxic agents, infections, and accidents can all lead to respiratory disease. Allergies and pollution can also trigger adverse respiratory conditions.

Types of Respiratory Diseases

There are several different types of respiratory diseases that impede lung and air passage function. These include:

  • Asthma: persistently inflamed airways
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): inability to exhale normally:
  • Acute bronchitis: sudden infection of the airways that is usually viral
  • Chronic bronchitis: a type of COPD defined by a chronic persistent cough
  • Emphysema: lung damage that keeps air trapped in the lungs
  • Cystic fibrosis: a genetic condition that causes accumulated mucus in the bronchi
  • Lung cancer: abnormal cells found in one or both lungs

Symptoms of Respiratory Disease

There are scarce symptoms that are associated with respiratory disease. One of the most common signs of respiratory disease is a cough. Other symptoms of respiratory disease include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Cough and sputum (saliva and mucus) production

Treating Respiratory Disease

Respiratory disease is diagnosed through a physical exam and a series of various tests. A stethoscope is typically used to determine the pitch and loudness of lung sounds, which can reveal abnormalities in the lungs or air passages. Sputum may also be examined for bacteria. Computed tomography (CT) scans produce pictures of the lungs, which can be used to determine any problems.

Treatment for respiratory disease is dependent upon the type of condition a person is diagnosed with. Those suffering from respiratory conditions due to asthma are typically prescribed inhaled or oral medications that can help open airway passages. People who suffer from bronchitis may find relief through prescription or over-the-counter medication. Respiratory diseases such as lung cancer will require treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation.

Respiratory Disease Statistics

  • Approximately 3 million people die each year from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, accounting for 6 percent of deaths worldwide
  • 235 million people suffer from asthma worldwide
  • 90 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases occur in low-income and middle-income countries
  • Some 2.4 million deaths are due to trachea/bronchial/lung cancer, accounting for 2.4 percent of deaths worldwide

Respiratory Disease FAQ

How does a person get an infection in their lungs?

Lung infections that lead to respiratory disease are typically caused by a viral infection. While a person’s immune system can sometimes work to flush out the infection, antibiotics are sometimes used to stop the infection.

What is respiratory failure?

Respiratory failure occurs when there isn’t enough oxygen passing from the lungs into the bloodstream. Respiratory failure can be fatal in some situations if not quickly treated. Lung diseases such as COPD, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary embolism can all cause respiratory failure.

External Links

Respiratory Diseases, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine

Respiratory disease, John Hansen-Flaschen & David V. Bates, Encyclopædia Britannica

Symptoms and signs of respiratory disease, Richard M.Leach, ScienceDirect

Chronic respiratory diseases, WHO Chronic Respiratory Diseases Programme

The burden of lung disease, European Lung White Book

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