The ability to breathe is easy to take for granted, but many people have medical conditions that make breathing difficult. In most of these cases, those who have trouble breathing have a problem with their respiratory system.
The respiratory system is the part of the body responsible for inhaling and exhaling air and absorbing energy-producing oxygen. The respiratory system includes the lungs, bronchi, trachea, larynx, pharynx, and nose. Much of the function of the respiratory system is connected with the circulatory system, which contains the heart and blood vessels.
Some people are at an increased risk of respiratory illnesses because they have smoked in the past or currently smoke. Other causes of respiratory disease include being exposed to air pollutants and certain allergens. Having certain medical conditions, such as Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, can also increase one’s risk of having a respiratory disease.
No matter what causes respiratory disease, a proper diagnosis is important so that an effective form of treatment can be found. For most people with a respiratory condition, this treatment often involves respiratory therapy and respiratory home care, such as using a ventilator or supplemental oxygen.
If breathing in and out does not come as easily to you as it once did, you may have one of the following medical conditions.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
More than 11 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There is no cure for this respiratory disease, and because of that, it has become the third-leading cause of death in the country with the number of fatalities increasing each year.
While smoking is a common cause of COPD, 15% of the people who have it are nonsmokers. Besides smoking, other common causes include secondhand smoke, dust, and poor air quality. When detected early, this disease is effectively treated with medication, oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Some early signs of COPD include:
- Chronic cough
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Cyanosis of the lips or fingernails
- Producing excess mucous or phlegm
One more common symptom is having shortness of breath while doing normal everyday activities that don’t require a lot of exertion. This symptom is often overlooked as most people simply consider it a natural sign of ageing.
This respiratory disease affects an increasing number of people in the United States each year. According to the most recent statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 20 million adults in the country have been diagnosed with asthma.
Each day, 30,000 people in the United States have an asthma attack and 11 people have a fatal asthma attack according to AsthmaMD.
Many more are either hospitalized, end up in the emergency room, or miss work because of their asthma. The primary causes include genetics and environmental factors. With this chronic respiratory disease, inflammation in the airways makes breathing very difficult. No cure is available for asthma, but like COPD, patients can manage symptoms of the disease.
Besides shortness of breath, some of the most common symptoms of asthma include:
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Wheezing sounds while exhaling
- Trouble sleeping due to coughing or shortness of breath
- Coughing attacks that are made worse with a cold or other respiratory virus
For some people, asthma flare-ups are especially common while exercising or when they come into contact with certain allergens or irritants, such as pollen, pet dander, chemical fumes, or dust.
- Lung Cancer
The second most common type of cancer for both men and women in the United States is lung cancer. Most people who get diagnosed with this type of cancer are 65 and older with the average age of diagnosis being 70 years old.
In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimated that there would be 234,030 new cases of lung cancer and 154,050 deaths associated with this particular form of cancer. Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, but it can also be caused by exposure to asbestos, radon gas, and air pollution.
One of the reasons lung cancer is so deadly is that it is hard to detect in its early stages. Some common symptoms to look for include:
- Cough that doesn’t go away
- Chest pain that feels worse while taking deep breaths
- Recurring infections in the lungs
- Blood in sputum
Catching lung cancer early helps to increase the effectiveness of certain types of treatment. Also, respiratory therapy can help patients improve their breathing capacity. Combined with pulmonary rehabilitation, respiratory therapy also helps to improve the ability to exercise, reduce complications of lung cancer surgery, and lessen shortness of breath.
If you have been diagnosed with a respiratory disease, and your doctor has recommended home respiratory care, contact Corner Home Medical. Our respiratory therapists, along with your physician, will help you find an effective form of treatment for your particular condition.