Lungs - How They Work
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder is a disease that occurs when the tiny airways in the lungs narrow and become constricted. There are various other health conditions – such as asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema -- which also affect lung functioning. Understanding how the lungs work can significantly enhance your understanding of various types of lung diseases including COPD.
Protecting the health of your lungs should be a lifelong goal. Your lungs are the core of your respiratory system, responsible for your ability to breathe and your body’s ability to circulate oxygen throughout. Various lung diseases can decrease the capacity of lung functioning; people with very severe COPD dip below 30 percent of normal lung functionality. In the pages of COPD Aware, you’ll learn more about the lungs and how they work in addition to popular lung diseases such as those mentioned above.
"As a longtime addiction counselor, I can't begin to describe how many of my patients are completely unaware of the nature of lung damage and lung disease. When you damage your lungs from smoking, it's not like cutting your finger, where the cut heals in a few days. When you damage your lungs, the damage is permanent. In the end, the damage caused by cigarettes is not worth getting emphysema or COPD."
Kyle B., Modesto, CA
Popular Lung Diseases
There are various lung diseases and health complications which can affect your ability to breathe and move oxygen throughout your body. Some of these conditions are common, such as asthma and allergies. Other conditions, such as COPD or emphysema, can be life threatening if not properly treated. Listed below are summaries of some of the most popular lung diseases. Further explanations of these diseases, their symptoms and their treatments can be found in COPD Aware.
- Cardiopulmonary Disease: This collection of diseases and disorders causes malfunctioning of normal heart and lung functioning, resulting in various moderate and serious health problems. There is often no curing a cardiopulmonary disease, but there are several treatment options that can slow the progression of symptoms or provide symptom rehabilitation.
- Emphysema: This chronic lung disease is a form of COPD caused by permanent damage to the linings of air sacs in the lungs, usually caused by cigarette smoke. Emphysema causes the feeling of an obstruction of the airway, causing people with this condition to sound raspy when exhaling. Quitting smoking is the best way to slow the progression of emphysema.
- Pulmonary fibrosis: This condition is caused by inflammation of the tissues between the ducts of the lungs. When this inflammation occurs, the result is chronic coughing and difficulty breathing. Periods of physical exertion are usually followed by moderate to severe shortness of breath or shallow breathing. If pulmonary fibrosis isn’t treated, severe infections, emphysema or heart problems can occur.
- Chronic bronchitis: This is a respiratory condition caused by an inflammation of the mucus membranes in the bronchial passages of the lungs. The bronchial passages are tiny airways that carry oxygen in and out of the lungs. During bouts of bronchitis, the mucus membranes grow inflamed, causing these airways to close off. The result is shortness of breath, coughing and an excess of phlegm.
More on Lung Disease
There are many other illnesses and health conditions that affect the way our lungs work, and several of these lung diseases are described in greater detail in COPD Aware. Treatments vary depending on each patient’s type of lung disease, and the prognosis for each condition is different as well. Many lung diseases get progressively worse unless treatment is administered, so being aware of lung disease symptoms is vitally important for protecting your overall health.
In COPD Aware, we also discuss the planning and preparation that often accompanies the diagnosis of a serious lung disease. Pulmonary disease is something that requires professional medical attention, and flare-ups of symptoms – whether it’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma – often require trips to the emergency room. The COPD Aware guide includes interviews with doctors and health specialists regarding what you can expect if you’re diagnosed with a serious lung disease.