Lung diseases (also known as respiratory conditions) are very common and can cause severe breathing difficulties.
Types of Lung Diseases
A condition of inflamed airways, making it difficult to breathe. While asthma can be controlled with medications (such as a tablet or inhaler), there is a possibility of experiencing what is referred to as an asthma attack, where symptoms worsen and make it feel like you aren’t breathing in enough air. Serious asthma flare-ups require medical attention.
A condition where long-term lung infections lead to damaged airways, causing the lungs to be permanently widened, ultimately preventing them from clearing mucus.
A group of lung diseases (emphysema, chronic bronchitis, chronic asthma) causing restricted airflow and breathing issues, leading to damaged lungs clogged with phlegm.
A lung infection that causes inflammation in the lungs and is usually caused by bacteria or a virus. The inflammation leads to the air sacs in your lungs becoming filled with fluid.
A long-term lung disease caused by inhaling unsafe levels of silica dust (usually over a number of years) that can scar the lungs, leading to difficulty breathing.
A long-term lung condition where the walls of the alveoli (small air sacs within your lungs) are damaged, causing the lung’s small airways to collapse when exhaling.
Lung Disease Symptoms
Although some lung diseases may come with their own symptoms, here is a list of common symptoms related to most (if not all) lung diseases.
- Unexplained breathlessness: It’s normal to feel out of breath after exercise (whether a brief walk or weight training), however unexplained shortness of breath can be a sign of lung disease.
- Wheezing: This is often associated with difficulty breathing and usually sounds like a high-pitched whistling sound when you breathe (both inhaling and exhaling).
- Fatigue: Everyone feels tired after a long day of work or physical exercise which can be relieved after a good night’s sleep. But constant exhaustion is typically related to medical conditions, including lung disease.
- Persistent coughing: Most people will experience slight lingering coughs throughout their lives which is very common. However, persistent coughing that lasts for weeks at a time can be a sign of lung disease.
- Coughing up blood: No matter how much or how little blood you cough up, this is a sign of a health problem. If you experience this symptom, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
- Chronic chest pain: Some chest pain is normal, as it can be caused by heavy lifting or swallowing a large piece of food, creating a temporary dull ache. But if you experience continuous unexplained chest pain, you may have a lung disease.
- Unintentional weight loss: Whether planned or unplanned, weight loss can be natural. You may be exercising regularly to lose weight, or have started eating healthier. But if there are no significant changes to your physical regime and you notice weight loss, this may be a sign of lung disease.
- Mucus production: Producing mucus can be caused by several factors that are not related to a medical condition, such as exercise, tobacco use, or certain foods like milk and chilli. However, you may have a lung disease if you are coughing up mucus for an unknown reason.
If you experience any of these symptoms, request a referral from your GP to North Brisbane Sleep and Thoracic. Our specialists can determine the severity of your potential lung condition and discuss treatment options with you.
When to See a GP
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms in a manner that is abnormal for you, book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible and request a referral to North Brisbane Sleep and Thoracic.
Prevalence of Lung Disease
Asthma and COPD are the two most common lung diseases in Australia. In 2020-2021, 11% of the population (2.7 million people) had asthma, while 2021 saw COPD as the leading underlying cause of death in Australia (4.1% of total deaths), affecting roughly 1 in 20 Australians over the age of 45. Silicosis, however, only affects roughly 500-600 Australians each year.
In Australia, pneumonia results in several hundred thousand GP consults every year and over 40,000 hospital admissions, making it the sixth leading cause of Australian deaths.
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