6 Respiratory Illnesses That Could Mean Trouble for Your Lungs

Amid all the working parts of the human body, the respiratory system administers some of the most important functions that keep us alive. This ensemble of organs, which contains the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs, lets us breathe and talk, manages our body temperature, brings oxygen to other organs, and removes waste carbon dioxide. 

A plethora of diseases can target the respiratory system, disrupting our health in ways that limit those essential functions. 

Be on the watch for these respiratory illnesses that may have a significant impact on your health.

1. Influenza

Known commonly as the “flu”, influenza makes its return each winter as cases spike. Certain flu statistics are difficult to discern because the illness is not always reported, but the World Health Organization estimates 290,000 to 650,000 flu-related deaths around the world annually. 

What Are the Symptoms of Influenza?

The flu has symptomatic similarity to other respiratory infections, causing sore throat, coughing, fever, body aches, tiredness, and headaches. 

How Dangerous Is Influenza?

The combination of different influenza strains has created notable health emergencies throughout the past century. The Spanish flu pandemic from 1918 to 1920 killed around 50 million people globally. The most recent influenza pandemic, the 2009 Swine flu (or H1N1 flu), killed more than 280,000 people globally. 

Another influenza pandemic is possible in the future, but fortunately, we appear to be more prepared than ever to identify potential viral flashpoints and combat respiratory illness.

Read More: What’s the Difference Between Influenza and Stomach Flu?

2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the most widespread respiratory conditions. It impacts 16 million Americans, and millions more are undiagnosed.

What Are the Two Types of COPD?

COPD consists of a group of diseases that block airflow to the lungs and cause other breathing-related problems. There are two main types of COPD: Emphysema — when the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) are damaged — and chronic bronchitis — when airways are constantly inflamed and become inundated with mucus. Most people with COPD will experience both conditions. 

What Are the Risk Factors for COPD?

Exposure to tobacco smoke and other pollutants increases the risk of getting COPD. Those who have occupations that deal with dust, vapors, and fumes — frequent in mining, construction, and transportation industries — are most likely to suffer from COPD. 

How to Treat COPD

COPD progressively worsens over time, but those who are diagnosed can turn to several treatments that should improve their quality of life. For those with a history of tobacco use, quitting smoking hinders the progression of COPD. Medicines, therapies, and surgeries further alleviate any problems caused by the disease.

What Is the Life Expectency of COPD?

Life expectancy for people with COPD depends on a variety of factors. Mild cases will see people living into their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, but additional complications could result in earlier death. The BODE index — measuring body mass index (BMI), airway obstruction, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and exercise tolerance — helps to predict COPD life expectancy.

Read More: Why Are Viruses More Active In The Winter?

3. Asthma 

Like COPD, asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that requires ongoing medical treatment. It results in inflammation and swelling of the airways, making them narrower and limiting the movement of air to the lungs.

How Prevalent Is Asthma?

Asthma affects more than 27 million — or every 1 in 12 — people in the U.S. It is a predominant chronic disease among children, with 4.5 million children under the age of 18 suffering from it. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 10 people in the U.S., on average, die from asthma daily.

What Happens During an Asthma Attack?

When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles in the airways tighten in an event known as a bronchospasm. Asthma attacks, which can be caused by exposure to allergens or a pre-existing illness, may last for only a few minutes, or for a longer period. Mild cases can be resolved with a fast-acting inhaler, which instantly delivers medication that relaxes airway muscles and reduces inflammation. If coughing or shortness of breath continues for days, however, medical treatment should be sought. 

Read More: Coughs of Many Colors: How to Get Rid of Phlegm

4. Pneumonia 

Pneumonia hits one or both lungs with an infection that can be deadly for people in high-risk groups. When someone contracts pneumonia, the alveoli of their lungs fill up with fluid, pus or blood. There are more than 30 causes of pneumonia that stem from bacteria, viruses, and fungi. 

A common bacterial version of the infection is pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. It is particularly dangerous for adults with chronic health conditions such as COPD, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. 

What Are the Symptoms of Bacterial Pneumonia?

Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia include coughing that produces mucus, fever, heavy sweating, chills, and breathing difficulties. Antibiotics are used to facilitate recovery, and other simple treatments such as resting and increasing fluid intake help speed up the healing process.

What Are the Symptoms of Viral Pneumonia?

Pneumonia caused by viruses make up one-third of all pneumonia cases. Viral pneumonia shares many of the same early-stage symptoms as the bacterial infection, but it may eventually cause headaches, muscle pain, and weakness. This type of pneumonia is often mild and gets better within 1 to 2 weeks with symptomatic management, without the need for antibiotics.

Comparing Bacterial Pneumonia vs. Viral Pneumonia

Viral pneumonia is more likely if someone exhibits lower temperature, problems in both lungs, and a lack of obvious symptoms at first. Bacterial pneumonia, deadlier than its viral counterpart, is usually associated with higher temperature, and problems with only one lung, and acute onset.

Every year, about 1 million adults in the U.S. are admitted to hospitals with pneumonia, and about 50,000 of them die from the disease.

Read More: Chicken Noodle Soup Really Can Help When You’re Sick

5. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis — a persistent respiratory menace throughout the ages — has gone by numerous recognizable names: TB, consumption, or ‘the white death.’ From the 18th to the early 20th centuries, it flourished among populations and generated widespread concern. Mortality rates from the disease have since fallen with the inception of a vaccination and improved public health measures, but it remains an eminent danger in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Western Pacific

What Causes Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, is spread through the air. Many people who are infected, however, do not show symptoms and cannot spread the disease: this is considered latent tuberculosis

What Are the Symptoms of Tuberculosis?

About 5 to 10 percent of infected people will start to show symptoms and develop TB disease. Once it advances to this point, symptoms include prolonged cough with blood-tinged sputum, chest pain, weakness, fatigue, night sweats, and fever. The main treatment for TB is antibiotics; The treatment period can take anywhere from 4 to 9 months

How Prevalent Is Tuberculosis?

An estimated 10.6 million people contracted the disease worldwide, and 1.3 million people died as a result, making TB the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19. In contrast to these staggering numbers, there have been only a few hundred TB deaths in the U.S. every year since the early 2000s.

Read More: What Is the Drug Bedaquiline and Why Is It Important for Those With Tuberculosis?

6. COVID-19

Although the havoc that ensued from the COVID-19 pandemic has simmered down, thousands of people continue to die from this respiratory illness. 

What Causes COVID?

Caused by a virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), this well-known disease imposes a wide array of symptoms that range from mild to severe.

What Are the Symptoms of COVID?

People with COVID experience a typical fever, cough, and fatigue, but other effects can arise from more severe cases. COVID-19 is set apart from other respiratory illnesses by a few unusual symptoms that impact bodily functions and persist for months, also known as Long COVID. These include digestive problems, loss of taste/smell, and skin changes. Some people with COVID experience sudden loss of memory and general confusion; It turns out that COVID doesn’t just attack the lungs, but also has a chance to develop inflammation of the brain, or encephalitis

How Dangerous Is COVID?

Nearly 7 million deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, with about 1 million of them in the U.S. Although 71 percent of the global population has been vaccinated, the arrival of new strains keeps COVID a real concern.

Read More: Does a Runny Nose Mean You Have COVID-19, the Flu, or a Common Cold?

Source : Discovermagazine