Our lungs: How to recognize individual lung diseases

The lungs are one of the most vital organs in our bodies. What signals do they send when something is wrong with them?
10.Jan 2021
 
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Lung diseases are well known not only for their frequency, but mainly for of their severity. In order for our body to function as it should, we need a healthy heart, as well as healthy lungs. The lungs are a pair organ, which means we can live without one, but if we lost the other, we wouldn't survive a minute...

The main task of the lungs is to transfer oxygen from the air to the blood and to remove carbon dioxide from the blood into the air. Failure of this mechanism leads to a deterioration of the body's oxygen supply. This occurs in both respiratory and pulmonary vascular diseases. There are also diseases that prevent the lungs from removing foreign substances, which are consequently present in excessive amounts, or impair the ability of the bronchi to supply air to the alveoli. These may include a narrowing of the bronchi or a disorder of the respiratory muscles that open the lungs.

"Lung diseases are on the rise in the Czech Republic. It's caused by persistent smoking, an ever-deteriorating environment and low physical activity of the population,"

says MUDr. Jiří Votruba, Ph.D., head of the 1st Department of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases of the General Hospital in Prague.

Lékař Jiří Votruba
Lékař Jiří Votruba • Source: jirivotruba.cz

The first symptoms of lung disease

In general, the typical symptom of a lung disease is cough. Nevertheless, MUDr. Jiří Votruba, Ph.D. adds:

"It is sometimes difficult to diagnose lung disease at the onset because the lungs don't have sensitive internal environment and therefore do not hurt. However, there are signs that can send patients to the doctor's office in time, such as minor coughing up of blood, sensations of impaired exhalation, or worsening of respiratory condition."

It is important to see a doctor in time, so that an accurate diagnosis could be made. We bring you an overview of common lung diseases and their symptoms.

Asthma

Asthma is one of the most well-known respiratory diseases. In approximately 80% of asthmatics, the disease manifests itself before the age of 5 and it's closely related to allergies. A patient with suspected asthma feels "out of breath", experiences a lack of air, distress or pressure on the chest. The disease is also accompanied by cough, often nocturnal, usually unproductive or with a small amount of mucus. The disease is treated by administering appropriate medicaments. For acute conditions, the doctors typically prescribe inhalers and recommend movement therapy, which can reduce the number of asthma attacks.

Dospělá žena s dýchacími problémy
Dospělá žena s dýchacími problémy • Source: Freepik.com

Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an infectious disease of the respiratory tract. Medicine distinguishes between two types - chronic and acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis usually begins as a common cold or flu with a sore throat. Next comes a dry irritating cough, which changes to wet during the course of the disease. The disease is often accompanied by fever, fatigue, general weakness or headache. The patient is advised to rest with adequate fluid intake and dry cough medication.

Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is characterized by persistent cough and expectoration of yellow to green mucus. It is caused by long-term irritation of the respiratory tract with cigarettes being one of the most common triggers. Work in dusty environments or polluted air, for example in big cities, can also contribute to its onset. Treatment of chronic bronchitis consists of eliminating substances that irritate the bronchi and administering appropriate medication.

Teploměr
Teploměr • Source: Pixabay.com/GundulaVogel

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

COPD causes inflammation of the lungs, narrowing of the airways, and damage to lung tissue. It is a slowly progressing disease that cannot be stopped. Patients usually come to the doctor at a late stage. It most often manifests by chronic cough, coughing up mucus and a gradually increasing shortness of breath. As with chronic bronchitis, smokers or people who frequently breathe polluted air should pay attention to possible symptoms. COPD may be incurable, but it can be treated. It is essential that the patients quit smoking. Doctors use drugs to dilate the bronchi and recommend pulmonary rehabilitation. When the condition worsens, they can also administer oxygen.

Inhalační maska
Inhalační maska • Source: Pixabay.com/Myriams-Fotos

Pulmonary fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a serious disease that leads to progressive stiffening of the lungs and also scarring of lung tissue. It causes irreversible lung damage. People who are long-term exposed to certain factors, which do not immediately cause fibrosis but can develop into this serious disease, should be especially careful. Those who work in an environment rich on inorganic dusts (silica, coal dust or beryllium) can be diagnosed with asbestosis or pneumoconiosis. Frequent exposure to organic dusts such as hay mold or bird droppings can turn into alveolitis. Smoking is also a risk factor. Symptoms of these unpleasant diseases may include worsening dyspnea, dry cough or fatigue. Symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) include fingers with nails in the shape of a watch glass. IPF is practically incurable and even with adequate treatment, survival usually does not exceed 3-5 years.

Pneumonia (pneumonia)

Pneumonia is an inflammatory disease of the lung tissue that can be caused by bacteria (most commonly of the genus Streptococcus), viruses (genus Herpes), fungi or various chemicals. The disease is accompanied by a wet cough, in which the patient coughs up purulent secretions, and high persistent fever. More severe forms of the disease are accompanied by shortness of breath and rapid breathing or chest pain and pressure. Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics and medicaments that reduce fever and cough.

Lung cancer

In the past, lung carcinoma was a rare disease. The exposure to harmful substances, such as cigarettes and other triggers, contributed to its huge expansion. Mainly smokers in their forties should watch out for symptoms. The first warning signs include wheezing and a change in the nature of the cough, which becomes more irritating and aggresive. Coughing up of blood can also occurr. Other symptoms include fatigue, muscle aches, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, recurrent pneumonia or chest pain.

If a carcinoma is left untreated, it can keep growing and spread beyond the lungs to the surrounding tissues or other parts of the body as part of a process called metastasis. The treatment method here is surgery, in which damaged lung tissue is removed. In an advanced stage, the doctors opt for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Kouření
Kouření • Source: Pixabay.com/Cheryl Holt

Tuberculosis

Have you heard of Mycobacterius tuberculosics? It is a bacterium that causes the illness we know as TB. Although economically developed countries have reduced the number of people infected, tuberculosis still exists and it's occurence is significantly higher among HIV-positive patients. The most common symptoms include chronic cough with bloody sputum (coughed up mucus), fever, weight loss, shortness of breath or chest pain. TB treatment takes at least 6 months. The patient receives medicaments that suppress the growth and multiplication of tuberculous bacilli.

Acute lung disease

Pulmonary edema, pulmonary embolism or pneumothorax are life-threatening sudden illnesses. In the case of pulmonary edema, severe shortness of breath occurs due to fluid in the lungs. In the case of pulmonary embolism, the artery that feeds the lungs or its branches is blocked by a blood clot. The disease manifests itself by sudden shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing. Coughing up of blood may occur as well. Chest pain and shortness of breath caused by the presence of air in the thoracic cavity between the lungs and ribs are typical of pneumothorax. In this case, the shortness of breath is caused by a contraction of the lungs. You can read about how unpredictable this disease is HERE.

Rodinný dům na prodej Praha 4 - Braník - 217m
Rodinný dům na prodej Praha 4 - Braník - 217m, Praha 4

Do not underestimate the symptoms

The increase in respiratory diseases is a major global problem. Patients often go to the doctor's office only when the disease is likely to be in an incurable stage. Mortality due to lung diseases is less than 10% in the Czech Republic, yet we shouldn't overlook the symptoms and should focus on prevention.

Our lungs

Logo Naše plíce
Logo Naše plíce • Source: Naseplice.cz

As a media partner of the real estate agency Y&T Luxury Property, we would like to invite you to support the fundraiser organized by the Endowment Fund Our Lungs: Let's donate a pulmonary ultrasound to the General Hospital at Charles Square.

Founded by a real estate agency during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Our Lungs is dedicated to supporting the treatment of respiratory diseases in adults and children.

"As a donor, we have supported various charity projects in the past," says Elena Jakubovič, the founder of the real estate agency.

"This time we would like to give it not only a different legal form, but also a whole new dimension - to help Czech experts and hospitals in the long term."

And what's the connection between real estate business and healthy lung care? Elena Jakubovič and her team believe that a well-chosen house or apartment is a place where you can breathe with ease. And everyone should be able to experience this feeling.

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