Asthma is a life-long (chronic) disease that makes it harder to move air into and out of your lungs. It’s a serious condition and can even be life-threatening. There is no cure, but there are treatments that make it possible for those with asthma to live normal, healthy lives.
Asthma is caused by swelling and inflammation of the airways in your lungs; the airways then become sensitive to external triggers such as a cold, dust, smoke, chemicals, or pet dander in the air. Breathing in these triggers causes the airways of a person with asthma to swell even further, producing excess mucus, tightening the muscles surrounding the airways, and making breathing very difficult. This is often referred to as an asthma “flare up” or “attack.”
While the exact cause of asthma is not known, it is known to run in families, so there is thought to be some genetic role in whether or not asthma occurs; if one of your parents has asthma, you are much more likely to have it as well. Certain allergies and contact with certain irritants and air pollution are also associated with asthma. In addition, respiratory infections, particularly in infancy and early childhood, can cause inflammation and damage to the lung tissue that lingers and has long-term effects on lung function, including asthma.
Asthma symptoms may vary, but here are some of the most common:
Asthma may occur during childhood and then seem to disappear later in life, or it may not appear until adulthood. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your healthcare provider.
Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are both forms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD causes inflammation and obstruction of the airways as well as destruction of lung tissue.
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The good news is, while there is no true cure, COPD can be prevented and effectively treated and managed.
Symptoms of COPD include:
COPD often goes undiagnosed for years because the symptoms can be easily disregarded as a cold or just growing older. But shortness of breath during everyday activities is never normal; if you experience these symptoms or think you might be at risk for COPD, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Sleep apnea is a very common breathing disorder that causes you to stop breathing briefly while you are asleep. Sleep apnea affects more than 12 million Americans; it can often go unnoticed, but sometimes causes serious health problems. The good news is, it can be treated.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
If you have sleep apnea, you may know it simply because your spouse or partner notices you stop breathing during the night, or that you snore excessively. Other symptoms include:
Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the U.S., causing more deaths than colorectal, prostate, and breast cancers combined. It’s caused by cells in the lungs mutating, growing uncontrollably, and forming a tumor. This cell mutation is normally caused by breathing dangerous chemicals, but there are also genetic components; anybody can get lung cancer, so it’s important for everyone to be aware of the importance of screening.
Lung cancer symptoms are hard to recognize and do not normally make themselves known until the cancer has spread; this makes lung cancer difficult to treat, contributing to its high mortality rate. Still, with proper screening and attention to risk factors, it can be successfully diagnosed and treated.