What are signs and symptoms of lung disease?
Lungs are a pair of organs in the chest cavity. They are responsible for the exchange of the atmospheric air into the blood and supply oxygen to the body parts.
When there is something wrong with your lungs, you will experience one or more of the following warning signs and symptoms.
- Chronic cough: A cough (dry or with expectoration) that does not clear up with conventional treatments within three to four weeks is known as chronic cough. This is a sign of lung diseases, namely bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma. It is also the symptom of lung cancer.
- Overproduction of mucus: It is okay to cough up sputum or mucus when you are suffering from a normal cough and cold or flu. Mucus is a natural way to expel bad things from your body by coughing. However, when you cough excess mucus throughout the day, it means there is a lung condition that is causing a buildup of mucus in your lungs. These conditions include
- Bronchiectasis (a condition in which the tubes [bronchial tubes] that carry air into and out of your lungs get permanently damaged, widened and thickened)
- Bronchitis (a condition in which the bronchial tubes get inflamed and swollen)
- Wheezing in the chest: Wheezing means breathing noisily. Normally, when air passes through the airways to reach your lungs, air sounds are clear. There is no noise in this process. However, when there is a blockage in these airways or something that causes the narrowing of these airways, wheezing can be heard. It is the hallmark of asthma.
- Coughing up blood: This sign is also referred to as blood in the sputum or blood in the phlegm and medically referred to as “hemoptysis.” You may cough up streaks or small amounts of bright red blood, which may be frothy. The source of blood is usually your lungs. It is often due to prolonged, severe coughing or a chest infection. Other less common lung conditions include
- Pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs)
- Pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs)
- Lung cancer
- Tuberculosis (TB)
- Shortness of breath: Trying to catch up breath or trouble breathing is a sign that your lungs are not getting enough oxygen. This can be found in lung conditions that include
- Lung cancer
- Pulmonary embolism
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Interstitial lung disease (a large group of disorders, most of which cause progressive scarring of lung tissue)
- Sarcoidosis (a multiorgan disease characterized by the formation of inflammatory cells known as lumps most commonly in the lungs, skin and lymph nodes)
- Chest pain: A new chest pain with or without coughing that lasts for more than a few weeks and worsens when you breathe or cough. This is a sign that you should contact your doctor right away.
- Chest infections that keep coming back: If your lungs have become weak due to a condition, such as lung cancer, they might not be able to fight the infections. Hence, getting recurrent chest infections is a serious sign.
Not every sign points out toward a lung condition. You may have shortness of breath and chest pain even due to a heart disorder. In anemia, the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood gets diminished due to a lower level of hemoglobin. This may also cause shortness of breath. Hence, it is necessary to get yourself regularly checked by your doctor. They will examine you completely and order tests that help you know if something is wrong with your lungs. They can help you decide whether you need a screening test for lung cancer, particularly if you are a smoker.
Doctors most often use the following tests to diagnose your lung condition, if any.
- Blood tests
- Chest X-ray
- Chest computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Chest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Pulmonary function tests
- Pleural fluid analysis
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American Lung Association. Warning Signs of Lung Disease. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/warning-signs-of-lung-disease#
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