Lung disease, also known as pulmonary disease, is a term that describes multiple different diseases that can affect your airways. Lung diseases are some of the most common medical conditions in the world.
Types Of Pulmonary Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
The most common group of respiratory diseases is known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). This includes diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In your lungs, the bronchial tubes and air sacs force air out in order for you to breathe.
With COPD, these tubes and air sacs lose their elasticity and over-expand, which leaves a small amount of air trapped in your lungs when you exhale. Because of this, COPD causes trouble breathing, as it renders you unable to take deep breaths.
Pulmonary embolism is caused by a blood clot that has traveled to your heart and been pumped into your lungs. The clot then sticks to a pulmonary artery, causing shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels.
Pulmonary hypertension can be caused by many different conditions that cause high blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries. This leads to shortness of breath and chest pain.
Risk Factors For Pulmonary Disease
There are multiple risk factors for developing chronic lung disease, with the most significant one being exposure to tobacco smoke. Prolonged smoking, as well as the amount of cigarettes smoked, play a key role in developing lung diseases. People with asthma are also at a higher risk of COPD, especially when combined with smoking.
Other risk factors include long-term exposure to chemical fumes, vapors, and dust in the workplace which can irritate and inflame your lungs. While some of these factors can be managed, others such as genetics cannot; it is important to reduce the risk of controllable factors.
Symptoms Of Pulmonary Disease
Symptoms of COPD typically don’t appear until significant lung damage has already occurred. These symptoms will usually worsen over time, especially if exposure to tobacco smoke continues. Symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy, and unintended weight loss.
Other symptoms are swelling in the ankles, feet, or legs, as well as shortness of breath, especially during physical activities. You may also have a chronic cough that produces mucus that is either clear, white, yellow, or greenish. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor and get tested for pulmonary disease immediately.
Complications Of Pulmonary Disease
People with COPD will have heightened difficulty with certain activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. In addition to this, some may be unable to work, as well as require special equipment like portable oxygen tanks. You may also have increased confusion of memory loss, and higher susceptibility to other chronic diseases including arthritis, congestive heart failure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, or stroke.
Other complications include an increased amount of emergency room visits and overnight hospital stays, along with mental health problems such as depression. COPD also gives you a higher risk of developing lung cancer, so it’s best to receive treatment before it progresses further.
How To Test For And Prevent Pulmonary Disease
Pulmonary disease can be easily detected with a spirometry test, which measures lung function and breathing ability to diagnose COPD. Once COPD is diagnosed, there are multiple treatment methods that can alleviate symptoms and prevent the disease from adding further problems.
The most important method of treatment for those who smoke tobacco is to quit smoking. If you do not smoke, then avoiding secondhand smoke and other air pollutants is also significant. If possible, take steps to avoid lung infections as well, as these can cause serious problems in people with COPD. Flu and pneumonia vaccines are essential for this reason.
Your doctor may also prescribe you medications to alleviate symptoms and reduce the discomfort that comes with COPD. For more serious cases, you may need to use supplemental oxygen tanks if your blood oxygen levels are too low. You can also ask your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation programs, which is a treatment program that teaches you about ways to manage COPD and improve your quality of life. These programs include plans that teach people how to breathe better and conserve their energy.
How GPS Can Help
At Gwinnet Pulmonary and Sleep, we offer services to help determine if you are dealing with lung conditions such as COPD, and treatment to help if you are. These services include pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry, lung volume, and diffusion capacity; as well as pulmonary rehabilitation.
If you suspect that you may have pulmonary disease, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. Learn more about our services here, or schedule an appointment to talk to our doctors.
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