What Is a Restrictive Pulmonary Disorder?

May 01, 2023
What Is a Restrictive Pulmonary Disorder?
When you have a pulmonary disorder, it affects how your lungs function when you breathe. Among the kinds of pulmonary disorders are restrictive pulmonary disorders, which make it difficult to inhale air. Read on to learn more.

It’s no secret that your lungs help you breathe. But, did you know this involves two important components? 

Inhaling air brings essential oxygen into your lungs, so it can enter your bloodstream and circulate throughout your system. However, exhaling is equally as important, because it rids your body of the waste gas carbon monoxide. 

Pulmonary disorders impact the lungs’ ability to perform these tasks effectively, and they fall into three specific categories: 

  • Restrictive: difficulty inhaling air
  • Obstructive: problems exhaling air
  • Mixed: a combination of the two

Our experts at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Algonquin, Illinois, specialize in diagnosing and treating lung problems. 

Here’s what you should know about restrictive pulmonary disorders and how they can impact your breathing.

Understanding restrictive pulmonary disorders

When you have a restrictive pulmonary disorder, it occurs because of a problem inhaling air. More simply put, you have a reduced total lung capacity that makes it hard to fill your lungs each time you take a breath. 

Additional signs of a restrictive lung disorder can include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Gasping or trying to catch your breath
  • Fatigue, often extreme
  • Depression and anxiety

Restrictive pulmonary problems often develop because the lungs lose elasticity or the chest can’t expand properly with an intake of breath. This is typically due to three specific reasons. 

Types of restrictive pulmonary disorders

The first step in diagnosing a restrictive pulmonary disorder involves identifying the difficulty you have inhaling air. This usually involves a pulmonary function test. Then, our team works to understand whether the problem is intrinsic, extrinsic, or neurological.

Intrinsic restrictive lung diseases

These types of breathing disorders involve tissue the lungs need to function, such as the capillaries (blood vessels), alveoli (branches of air tubes), and interstitium (supportive lung tissue).

In most cases, these types of restrictive pulmonary disorders develop because of inflammation and scarring due to:

  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Pulmonary fibrosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Lung cancer surgeries can also lead to intrinsic restrictive lung diseases.

Extrinsic restrictive lung diseases

Unlike intrinsic restrictive pulmonary disorders, extrinsic diseases involve tissue outside of the lungs, such as the chest wall, respiratory muscles, and pleura (membrane spreading over the lungs).

These types of restrictive pulmonary disorders often occur because of conditions like obesity, scoliosis, rib fractures, and malignant tumors.

Neurological restrictive lung diseases

Finally, you can also experience restrictive pulmonary disorders because of neurological issues. With this type, the central nervous system affects your ability to draw air.

Neurological conditions that can cause a restrictive lung disorder include muscular dystrophy, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Treating a restrictive pulmonary disorder

Managing a restrictive pulmonary disorder depends on several factors, including the cause, the severity, and your overall health and medical history. So, depending on the diagnosis, a treatment plan could involve a number of options, such as inhalers, antibiotics, expectorants, oxygen therapy, chemotherapy, or lung transplantation, among other options.

No matter what you’re experiencing, our providers can get to the bottom of your issue and design a comprehensive plan to help you breathe well. To learn more, call 815-584-0976 or book an appointment online with Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine today.