5 Lung Disorders That Affect Your Breathing

Sep 01, 2023
5 Lung Disorders That Affect Your Breathing
When people think of lung disorders, they often focus on cancer. However, several conditions can impact this part of the body and significantly affect your ability to breathe. Keep reading to learn more.

It’s impossible to ignore a breathing problem. Even if your symptoms seem mild, your body needs certain amounts of oxygen to function and thrive.

Sometimes, breathing problems can be short-lived. For example, it may be difficult to breathe easily due to intense exercise or a bad cold. However, if the symptoms persist or if breathing continually feels hard or uncomfortable, it could be a sign of a lung disorder.

Our team at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Algonquin, Illinois, specializes in diagnosing and treating breathing disorders. In this blog, we discuss five lung disorders that we commonly see at our practice.

1. Asthma

Approximately 25 million Americans live with asthma, including 7 million children, making it one of the most common lung diseases. When you have this condition, the lungs grow swollen and the airways narrow, which interferes with your ability to breathe.

Asthma often runs in families. Other factors that can increase your chances of developing this lung disorder include:

  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Frequent exposure to pollutants
  • Having allergies, eczema, or a sinus disease

People born prematurely or with a low birth weight also have a higher chance of developing asthma.

2. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

When you have COPD, the lungs become inflamed. This causes them to produce too much mucus, and the lining of the lungs thickens. Air sacs within the lungs also become less adept at absorbing oxygen and eliminating carbon dioxide.

The leading cause of COPD involves smoking. However, genetics and exposure to toxins, such as secondhand smoke, air pollution, fumes, dust, and smoke, can also increase your risks of developing this condition.

It’s common for people with COPD to also have two other lung conditions that affect breathing, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

3. Emphysema

Emphysema is a condition that arises from damage to the air sacs within the lungs. As mentioned above, these structures bring oxygen into your body and rid your system of carbon dioxide.

When you have emphysema, the air sacs weaken and even rupture. This causes wheezing, shortness of breath, and the feeling you can’t get enough air.

4. Chronic bronchitis

Many people develop bronchitis at some point during their lifetime, since it often goes hand-in-hand with colds and sinus infections. However, when you have chronic bronchitis, the condition never goes away. When this occurs, the bronchial tubes in the lungs become inflamed, which leads to an increase in mucus production.

In most cases, you have chronic bronchitis when symptoms persist for at least two years. However, you could also have chronic bronchitis if you cough up mucus for at least three months.

5. Lung infections

Finally, lung infections are also a common culprit for lung-related breathing problems. But you’ve likely heard them referred to by their generic name: pneumonia.

Pneumonia describes a lung infection that develops from a microorganism that grows out of control in the lungs. These infections can start from fungi, bacteria, or viruses, but they all trigger inflammation in the air sacs and fluid buildup that interferes with the ability to breathe.

Pneumonia can vary in severity and even become chronic. While it can affect anyone, it’s most common in those with vulnerable lungs due to another illness, weakened immune system, or surgery.

Smoking also increases your chances of developing pneumonia. 

Diagnosing lung disorders that affect breathing

This is just the tip of the iceberg for potential causes of breathing problems. Our team has the advanced skills you need to determine what’s behind your symptoms.

During your visit, we review your symptoms, capture your personal and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Based on this assessment, we might order additional tests to evaluate your lung and airway function, such as:

We might also check your lungs with a scope — bronchoscopy — or drain fluid for testing.

Once we determine the cause of your breathing problems, we can create a personalized treatment strategy to help you breathe easier.

Do you have a breathing problem? Don’t wait to find help. To learn more, call 815-584-0976 or book an appointment online with Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine today.