What is Lung Disease?
Lung Disease is another very common condition in Fiji, there are many different conditions that can be called lung disease. There are many causes of lung disease, the most common include smoking, infections. Genetics and family history also play a part.
Your lungs are part of a very complex respiratory system in your body. They expand and relax thousands of times each day so that your body can take in much needed oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide. Lung disease affects different parts of this system.
What are the different types of lung disease?
There are many different types of lung disease, that affect different areas.
The following conditions affect the airways;
When your airways are frequently inflamed making breathing difficult, common symptoms wheezing and shortness of breath. See our section on Asthma to learn more.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a condition that affects your ability to exhale normally, making breathing difficult.
Is a form of COPD that inflames the airways restricting airflow. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is a sudden infection of the airways, usually by a virus. It can accompany a cold and clears up after a week or two.
Chronic bronchitis has a mucus (phlegm)-producing frequent cough. Chronic Bronchitis can last for along time, years even that eventually damages the airways, leading to infection.
Chronic Bronchitis is common among smokers and all to often dismissed as ‘smokers cough’. If left to develop, chronic bronchitis can seriously damage your lungs and your heart which can be life threatening.
This is lung damage that allows air to be trapped within the lungs that makes blowing out air difficult. This is a form of COPD.
This is a genetic condition that is categorized by a poor ability to clear the bronchi of mucus. The build up of mucus causes repeated lung infections.
The following affect the air sacs in your lungs (Alveoli). These little sacs are found in clusters at the end of the smaller bronchi tubes (Bronchiole). These clusters make up most of our lung tissue.
An Infection in your Aveoli, usually caused by bacteria.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
This is a severe form of pneumonia caused by a specific virus, it often affects children in Fiji. See Healthy Kids section for more information.
A slower progressive type of pneumonia caused by a particular type of bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis).
Is caused by damage to the fragile connections between each individual alveoli (smoking is the usual cause.) I
Is a big killer around the world. Lung cancer can develop in any part of the lungs, however, it is most commonly found in the main part of the lung (tissue), in or near the air sacs. The location, type and spread of lung cancer will determine how it is treated.
Like many cancers, the earlier you can diagnose lung cancer, the better your chances of survival.
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
This is a sudden and severe injury to your lungs caused by a serious illness. Often, you may require life support to survive and breath until your lungs can recover.
Is what we call a category of conditions affecting the lungs that is caused by the inhlaltion (breathing in) of substances that injure the lungs. Common examples include ‘black lung disease’ from inhaled coal dust and ‘asbestosis’ from inhaling asbestos dust.
There are many other, less common forms of lung disease, speak to your doctor or medical professional if you want to know more about them or any of the above conditions.
What are the warning signs of Lung Disease?
Because there are so many different types of lung disease, the symptoms can differ. However, as these all affect your respiratory (breathing) system, there are definitely some common symptoms of lung disease that you definitely shouldn’t ignore. If you experience these symptoms, you should see your health worker immediately.
1. Chronic Cough – A cough that you have had for a month or more is chronic. This is an important early symptom. It tells you something is wrong with your respiratory system.
2. Shortness of Breath – Shortness of breath that doesn’t go away after exercising, or that you have after little or no exertion, is not normal. Difficulty breathing – the feeling that it is hard to breathe in or breathe out – is also an important warning sign.
3. Chronic Mucus Production – Mucus, also called sputum or phlegm, is produced by the airways. It is a your lungs defense response to infections or irritants, which is why you can get mucus during a cold or flu. If your mucus production has lasted a month or more, this could indicate lung disease.
4. Wheezing – Noisy breathing or wheezing is a sign that something unusual is blocking your lungs’ airways or making them too narrow.
5. Coughing up Blood – If you are coughing up blood, the blood may be coming from your lungs or upper respiratory tract. Whatever the source of the blood, it is a sign of a health problem.
6. Chronic Chest Pain – Unexplained chest pain that lasts for a month or more – especially if it gets worse when you breathe in or cough – can also be a warning sign.
7. Voice – a change in your voice such as being hoarse/croaky
8. Pain – In your chest, back or shoulder that isn’t related to your cough.
Adapted from www.lung.org
How do I reduce the risk of Lung Disease?
There are many things you can do to lower your risk of lung disease. Many of these steps revolve around a healthy lifestyle which has many benefits for your whole body. Take these steps to help reduce your risk and live a longer, happier life.
1. Don’t Smoke
Cigarette smoke is one of the major causes of many lung disease, not to mention a whole list of other health problems. Cigarette smoke causes chronic inflammation or swelling in the lung. This can lead to chronic bronchitis. Over time cigarette smoke destroys lung tissue, and may trigger changes that grow into cancer.
No type or level of cigarette smoke is safe, so quit today for a longer, healthier future.
2. Avoid exposure to lung-damaging polluted air.
Bad, polluted air can be very damaging to your lungs. There are many kinds of polluted air including second-hand cigarette smoke, outdoor air pollution such as smog from buses and cars and chemicals in your home and workplace. Try and reduce your exposure to these sorts of pollution.
3. Take steps to prevent Infection
Your body has natural defenses against germs and dirt, however, it isn’t always able to fight them off. Colds and other respiratory infections can become serious and lead to long-term damage to you lungs. There are lots of simple steps you can take to help protect you from
- Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap. Especially after using the toilet, touching animals or working outside and before eating.
- Avoid spending to much time with sick people or crowds, germs and infection can be spread from a sick person to a healthy person through the air and saliva, so best to avoid them to stay healthy
- Make sure you have a healthy smile! This means practicing good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth 2-3 times a day to prevent infection in your mouth.
- If you are sick, make sure you do your part to prevent it spreading to your friends and family. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and stay away from places like work where you spend lots of time with lots of people. It is best to rest and let your body fight off the infection.
4. Get regular health checks
Even when you aren’t feeling sick, it is important to get checked up by a health worker, they can screen you for many diseases that may not be obvious to you (you don’t feel any symptoms) but can be very bad for your health. Lung disease can easily develop undetected and can get very serious. Your health worker can check your breathing and identify if anything sounds different or concerning.
Being regularly active and exercise such as swimming is great for your lungs and ensures they are being used properly. A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables also contributes to healthier lungs.