lung disease
The symptoms of lung illness might vary because there are so many distinct kinds.

Any problem with the lungs or pulmonary system that affects the proper functioning of the lungs is referred to as lung disease. Any lung ailment that lasts for a long period is considered chronic.

Respiratory disorders are among the most common medical problems in the world. Most lung disorders are caused by smoking, genetics, infection, and occupational environmental risks.

Learn the 14 most serious lung diseases below.

Things to know about lung disease

Respiratory illnesses have a massive global health impact. The following facts are concerning:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects 65 million people globally and kills 3 million per year, making it the third greatest cause of death.
  • Every year, 10 million people contract tuberculosis, and 1.6 million people die from it, making it the most prevalent deadly infectious illness.
  • Lung cancer is the most lethal cancer, killing 1.76 million individuals each year.
  • Asthma affects 334 million individuals, making it the most prevalent chronic condition in children. It affects 14 percent of children worldwide and is on the rise.
  • Pneumonia kills millions of people each year, making it the top cause of mortality in children and the elderly.
  • 91 percent of the world's population lives in areas where air quality is not according to the World Health Organization’s guidelines, which can lead to chronic lung diseases.

14 serious lung diseases

  1. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • A broad phrase that refers to several chronic conditions that cause inflammation and obstructed airflow through the lungs.
    • It damages the airways, but it can take years to develop. Hence, it can be difficult to detect early.
    • It is frequently misdiagnosed as natural aging and a decrease in lung function, even though this progressive disease has permanent implications that can make daily tasks difficult.
    • While it is commonly linked with tobacco smoke, it could be caused by air pollution, other forms of smoke, and airborne particulates.
    • The symptoms vary depending on the type of COPD, the two major types being chronic bronchitis and emphysema
    • Symptoms may include:
  2. Asthma
    • Occurs when the airways of the lungs get inflamed, resulting in difficult breathing. An allergic reaction, such as pollen or smoke, is the most common trigger.
    • Though asthma commonly begins in childhood, it may afflict people of any age including elderly individuals.
    • Asthma can be managed well with medications, and you may live a normal, active life if treated properly.
    • Symptoms may include:
  3. Bronchitis
    • A brief bacterial or viral infection. It can cause an infection of the airways, resulting in excess mucus.
    • Acute bronchitis can gradually become chronic if bouts occur often.
    • This is especially true for smokers or those who are exposed to air pollution that causes their disease.
    • Unlike acute bronchitis, which is a transient bacterial infection, chronic bronchitis is a kind of COPD that worsens over time, especially if not treated.
    • Symptoms include:
      • Chronic, wet, productive cough especially in the morning
      • Shortness of breath
      • Weakness
  4. Lung cancer
    • It is the leading cause of death in the United States.
    • Lung cancer refers to the uncontrolled growth of cells that starts in the lungs. 
    • It affects the air sacs of the lungs and may spread throughout the body if left untreated.
    • It is tough to detect and can begin anywhere in the lungs when DNA abnormalities cause cells to grow uncontrolled.
    • It can be caused by asbestos, diesel exhaust, radon, radiation, and other airborne toxins, in addition to smoking and secondhand smoke.
    • Symptoms can take years to develop and may include:
  5. Cystic fibrosis
    • Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary illness that causes thick, sticky mucus to clog the airways, resulting in deadly and recurrent bacterial infections in the lungs.
    • It obstructs the pancreas, preventing nutrient digestion and absorption.
    • Though most instances are diagnosed before the age of two years, over 25 percent of cases go unreported.
    • Symptoms may include:
      • Salty-tasting skin
      • Poor growth
      • Chronic cough
      • Frequent lung infections
  6. Tuberculosis
    • Tuberculosis is a kind of lung infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis
    • It damages the lung's alveoli or air sacs. It is infectious and can spread to other parts of the body, including the spine and brain.
    • Though it was formerly the greatest cause of mortality, most cases are now curable with antibiotics.
  7. Pulmonary edema
    • Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by excessive fluid buildup in the lungs.
    • It happens when fluid seeps from blood vessels into the airways making breathing difficult.
    • It is caused by either back pressure in the lungs as a result of heart failure or when a lung injury breaks blood vessels and causes them to leak.
  8. Pulmonary embolism
    • Caused when a blood clot (typically from a deep vein in the leg) breaks off and goes into the pulmonary arteries of the lungs.
    • This causes shortness of breath and low oxygen levels because the pulmonary arteries deliver blood into the lungs to distribute oxygen throughout the body, which cannot occur properly when the arteries are clogged.
  9. Pulmonary hypertension
  10. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
    • Acute, severe damage to the alveoli induced by a major sickness, such as COVID-19.
    • It occurs due to the collection of fluid in the alveoli, hampering proper oxygenation of the blood.
    • It is potentially fatal and frequently necessitates the use of a ventilator during the treatment process.
  11. Pneumonia
    • Pneumonia is a bacterial, viral, or fungal illness that causes inflammation of the lungs.
    • Seniors, especially those who smoke or have other chronic diseases, are more vulnerable to this potentially fatal condition.
    • A pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination, along with flu injections, hand washing, and additional care during cold and flu season, is strongly recommended for people older than 65 years who have a chronic disease.
    • Symptoms may include:
      • Fever
      • Chills
      • Shortness of breath
      • Persistent, wet, unpleasant cough
  12. Pleural effusion
    • Pleural effusion occurs when fluid collects between the layers of the membrane called pleura that surrounds the lungs, making breathing difficult.
    • This can be caused by several factors, such as congestive heart failure, malignancy, or pneumonia, and is generally identified when a patient complains of shortness of breath and increasing chest discomfort.
  13. Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
    • ILD is a broad term to describe conditions that cause progressive scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs.
    • This hampers lung functioning that worsens with time.
    • ILD occurs due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as hazardous chemicals, cigarette smoke, and asbestos.
    • When this occurs, the afflicted tissues harden and stiffen, resulting in:
      • Dry cough
      • Shortness of breath
      • Exhaustion
      • Weight loss
      • Incapacity to conduct strenuous activities
  14. COVID-19
    • COVID-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that infects the respiratory system and produces sickness. It spreads readily from person to person and is especially harmful to elders, whose risk of serious illness and death is higher.
    • Currently, people aged 65 years and older account for 8 of the 10 COVID-19-related fatalities.
    • Primary symptoms are flu-like and may include:
      • Cough
      • Fever
      • May worsen to the point a ventilator is necessary to enable breathing


COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the same as adult-onset asthma. See Answer

7 warning signs and symptoms of lung diseases

The symptoms of lung illness might vary because there are so many distinct kinds. However, because all influence your respiratory (breathing) system, some typical signs of lung illness you should not overlook.

  1. Chronic cough
    • A cough that has lasted a month or longer is considered chronic. This is a significant early symptom.
    • It alerts you to the fact that something is amiss with your respiratory system.
  2. Shortness of breath
    • Shortness of breath that persists after exercise or occurs with little or no effort is not natural.
    • Difficulty breathing or the sensation that it is difficult to breathe in or out is another crucial warning sign.
  3. Chronic mucus production
    • The airways create mucus, often called sputum or phlegm. It is your lungs' defense reaction to infections or irritants, which is why you might develop mucus when you have a cold or the flu.
    • If your mucus production has continued for a month or more, you may have a lung disease.
  4. Wheezing or noisy breathing
    • Indicates that something unexpected is obstructing or narrowing your lungs' airways.
  5. Coughing up blood
    • If you are coughing up blood, it might be from your lungs or upper respiratory tract.
    • Whatever the cause of the blood, it indicates a health concern.
  6. Chronic pain
    • Unexplained chest pain that gets worse when you breathe in or cough can be a warning sign.
    • Pain in your chest, back, or shoulder that is not related to your cough could be a sign of respiratory illness.
  7. Voice
    • A change in the voice that lasted for more than a week or two may be a sign of respiratory disease.

14 treatment options for lung diseases

Treatment may depend on the underlying health condition and age of the individual. Most lung diseases can be managed or cured when detected early.

Common treatment options may include:

  1. Inhalers
  2. Nebulizers
  3. Oral drugs
  4. Intravenous treatments
  5. Corticosteroids
  6. Leukotriene modulators
  7. Long-term beta-agonists
  8. Supplemental oxygen
  9. Chemotherapy
  10. Radiotherapy
  11. Pulmonary rehabilitation
  12. Interventional bronchoscopy
  13. Lung transplant
  14. Stem cell therapy (under research)

5 ways to prevent lung diseases

There are several things you may take to reduce your chance of developing lung disease. Many of these actions focus on living a healthy lifestyle, which has numerous health advantages for your entire body.

  1. Don’t smoke
    • Cigarette smoking causes persistent lung inflammation or edema.
    • Cigarette smoke harms lung tissue over time and may cause alterations that progress to cancer.
    • There is no safe level or type of cigarette smoke, so quit now for a longer, healthier future.
  2. Avoid exposure to lung-damaging polluted air
    • Polluted air may be extremely harmful to your lungs
    • Secondhand cigarette smoke, outdoor air pollution (such as smog from buses and automobiles), and chemicals in your home and office are examples of contaminated air.
  3. Take steps to prevent infection
    • Your body has natural defenses against bacteria and dirt, but they are not always effective.
    • Cold and other respiratory infections can be dangerous and cause long-term lung damage.
    • Hands should be washed often with warm water and soap, especially after using the restroom, petting animals, working outside, or eating.
    • Maintain social distance and always wear a mask when going outside.
    • Brush your teeth at least two times a day to keep your mouth clean and avoid illness.
    • If you are unwell, make every effort to keep your illness from spreading to your friends and family. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and avoid areas where you spend a lot of time with a lot of people, such as work.
    • Rest and let the body fight the illness.
  4. Get regular health checks
    • Regular health checkups may help detect and treat lung conditions early.
    • Lung illness may spread quickly and be fatal if left untreated.
    • Doctors can examine you and see if anything unusual or worrying is occurring.
  5. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen
    • Daily physical activity, such as swimming or walking, benefits your lungs and ensures that they are being used effectively.
    • A well-balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables is beneficial to lung health.
    • According to the National Cancer Institute, eating a lot of vegetables and fruit may lessen your chances of acquiring lung cancer or other lung problems.

While you have little control over genetic risk factors, you may limit your exposure to pollution and other harmful chemicals. If you see any of these symptoms in a family member, get quick medical attention and help them find comfort via appropriate therapy.


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Medically Reviewed on 6/10/2022
Image Source: iStock image

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