Understanding Common Breathing Disorders

Have you been having trouble breathing? Have you been finding yourself short of breath? While mild breathing problems can result due to colds, allergies, or after intense exercise, some breathing disorders can be more serious. That’s why it’s important to visit a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.  

Our compassionate pulmonary experts at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine have been helping patients in Algonquin, Illinois, breathe easier for years. If you’re having trouble breathing, we have the knowledge and experience to diagnose and treat the problem.  

What are the symptoms of a breathing disorder?

Symptoms may vary in intensity depending on the breathing disorder, but symptoms can include:

What are the common breathing disorders and how are they treated?

Some of the most common breathing disorders are asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic bronchitis. 


Asthma is a common respiratory condition that affects breathing because it creates inflammation in the airways. Allergic reactions, infections, and pollution are all possible triggers for an asthma attack. Asthma usually starts in childhood, but it’s possible to develop the condition as an adult. 

Treatment for asthma may include short- and longer-term medications. The team at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine will also teach you how to use a peak flow meter at home. A peak flow meter measures the amount of air you breathe out. 


Emphysema is a serious respiratory disease, most commonly caused by smoking. Cigarette smoke can damage the air sacs in your lungs, and once the sacs are so damaged they can’t repair themselves, you can have trouble breathing. 

There is no cure, but if you quit smoking, you can slow the condition’s progression. Treatment usually includes getting extra oxygen and taking medications to help you breathe. In severe cases, lung surgery may be required. 


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that obstructs the airflow and makes it difficult to breathe. The primary cause of COPD is smoking, but nonsmokers can also develop the condition. 

People often go undiagnosed because they dismiss or don’t understand the early signs of the disease. Unfortunately, without treatment, COPD can be deadly. In fact, it’s the third leading cause of death by disease in the United States. 

Treatment for COPD may include medications to help make breathing easier, respiratory therapy, or a breathing device. If your COPD is more serious, your doctors at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine may recommend surgery.   

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a form of COPD. People with chronic bronchitis typically cough up mucus, especially first thing in the morning. This happens because the irritation in the airways triggers increased mucus production in the mucosal glands. 

Since chronic bronchitis is a form of COPD, the treatment protocol is similar. You may be prescribed an inhaler or respiratory therapy.

Other common breathing disorders

There are many types of breathing disorders. Other common conditions include:

Lung cancer and tuberculosis are also considered types of breathing disorders.

How are breathing disorders diagnosed? 

At Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, we begin the diagnostic process by going over your medical history, discussing your symptoms, and performing a physical exam. 

To help pinpoint the cause of your breathing trouble, we may order certain tests. These tests may include: 

If you’re having trouble breathing, we can help you. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine today.

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