Types of Breathing Disorders


The function of the lungs is to take oxygen from the air we breathe and turn it into carbon dioxide. Breathing disorders such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, can greatly affect and decrease the lung's capacity to process oxygen. Recognizing the signs of various breathing disorders can help you receive the proper treatment as soon as possible.


Asthma is caused by the inflammation and constriction of the bronchial tubes or the airways of the lungs. The constricted tubes cause additional mucus to be created, blocking airways. Constriction of the airways can be triggered by exercise, strong emotions and allergens such as pollen. Genetics play a role in why some people get asthma and others don't, though the precise role is unknown. Symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and wheezing. While there is no cure for asthma, symptoms can be controlled with the use of inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers that open the airways. Fast-acting medications such albuterol are used for rapid, short-term asthma symptom relief.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also called COPD, is a name for a group of diseases that result in obstructed airways in the lungs, making breathing difficult. The primary causes of COPD are inflammation of the walls of the lung airways or alveoli and chronic bronchitis. The symptoms of COPD depend on the cause of the disease. Symptoms of COPD caused by emphysema are shortness of breath, wheezing and tightness in the chest. COPD caused by bronchitis exhibits frequent respiratory infections and yellow sputum produced by coughing. COPD can not be cured, and damage caused by the disease cannot be reversed. Bronchodilators are taken to relax airways, and inhaled steroids reduce inflammation.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes breathing to cease during sleep and then start again. The cause of sleep apnea depends on the type. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by relaxation of the airway, causing it to close as you inhale. Central sleep apnea is fairly rare and is caused by the brain not sending the signal to breath to the lungs. Those with complex sleep apnea have obstructive sleep apnea and problems with their breathing patterns. Symptoms of sleep apnea include excessively loud snoring, difficulty staying asleep and excessive sleepiness during the day. Treatment includes continuous positive airway pressure, which uses a mask to deliver air pressure, keeping the upper airway open.

Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a serious disease that causes gradual scarring of the tissue of the lungs. Irreversible scarring of the interstitium, the tissue that separates the alveoli in the lungs, makes it harder for the alveoli to expand. This makes breathing more difficult, causing fatigue, shortness of breath and dry coughs. Scarring in the lungs is irreversible, so there is no cure of pulmonary fibrosis, and no medications have been found to be effective against the progression of the disease. Oxygen therapy can make breathing easier, and although it's usually a last resort, lung transplantation is also an option for treatment.

Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia is a lung infection caused by breathing in foreign materials such as food, drinks and vomit. Anesthesia, sedatives and excessive alcohol use may cause aspiration. Symptoms include fever, chest pain and wheezing. The treatment of aspiration pneumonia depends on the severity of the infection. Antibiotics are the most common course of treatment for the infection, and special antibiotics are sometimes prescribed for bacteria that live in the mouth.

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