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Respiratory Diseases and Disorders

'Respiratory diseases' is a broad term used for different respiratory system disorders which includes diseases of the pleural cavity, lungs, trachea, upper respiratory tract, bronchial tubes, and muscles and nerves involved in breathing. Respiratory disease can either be self-limiting and mild like common cold or can be life-threatening in cases of pulmonary embolism and bacterial pneumonia.

Signs and symptoms of respiratory disease depend on the type of disease, but common symptoms include dyspnea or shortness of breath which can interfere with normal daily activities. Dyspnea usually occurs with exercise but in severe cases it can also occur while resting. Noisy breathing either stridor or wheeze, cough with or without sputum production, haemoptysis or coughing blood, drowsiness or somnolence, loss of appetite, weight loss, chest pain – with or without pleuritic chest pain, and bluish discoloration of tongue, lips or fingers.

Depending on the organ involved, pattern of the symptoms or cause of the disease, respiratory diseases can be classified in to – obstructive lung disease, restrictive lung disease, respiratory tract infections, pulmonary vascular disease, pleural cavity disease, disorders of breathing mechanisms and respiratory tumors.

Obstructive Lung Disease
In this type of respiratory disorder, the bronchial tubes in the lungs become narrow making the movement of air hard (breathing in and out becomes hard). Different types of obstructive lung disease include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, bronchiolitis, and allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
COPD is a group of respiratory disorders in which the air flow into and out of the lungs is impaired or limited that is not fully reversible. Empyema and chronic bronchitis are the conditions included in the term COPD as most of the patients with COPD have characteristics of these two conditions in varying degrees. The most common cause of COPD is long term smoking, but it may also be caused due to breathing some gases or particles.
The bronchial tubes of patients with asthma are extra sensitive; the muscles around the airways tighten making them narrower. This causes inflamed airways which produce excess mucus. Allergic reaction is a common cause for triggering asthma, which can be due to dust particles, animal fur, and pollen in air, cold air or smoke. Globally asthma is a common condition with marked symptoms of wheezing, breathlessness, coughing especially at night and early morning and chest tightness.
Restrictive Lung Disease
This respiratory disease is characterized by loss of lung compliance which leads to increased lung stiffness and incomplete lung expansion. Pulmonary fibrosis is usually the underlying process which causes scarring of the lung tissue and parts of lung can sometimes have a honeycomb effect.
Respiratory Tract Infections
Any part of the respiratory system can be affected with infections. An upper respiratory tract infection would include colds, tonsillitis, sinusitis, otitis media, laryngitis, and pharyngitis. Lower respiratory tract infections include pneumonia which is a lung infection.
Respiratory Tumors
Tumors can be benign or malignant, those found in the respiratory system; however benign tumors are relatively less common cause for respiratory tumors.
Pleural Cavity Diseases
When the fluid form the bloodstream shifts to the pleural cavity or when there is inflammation of the pleura itself, it causes accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity - this condition is called pleural effusion. Other conditions like empyema and meaothelioma also falls in this category.
Pulmonary Vascular Diseases
These diseases affect the pulmonary circulation leading to a pulmonary clot or embolism which can be fatal.
Disorders of Breathing Mechanism
The breathing process is coordinated by the brain and the muscles of respiration, any disorders in these mechanisms can cause central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, Myasthenia gravis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Guillan-Barre syndrome.

Submitted on January 16, 2014