Airway diseases, such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), are some of the most common conditions affecting millions of people worldwide. They can cause a range of symptoms, from shortness of breath, to wheezing and coughing, to difficulty breathing, or even pre-mature death. These diseases can significantly impact the quality of a person’s life, and can undermine their ability to enjoy everyday activities.
Unfortunately, airway diseases also put those afflicted at an increased risk of developing additional medical complications. In the following article, Monica Kraft, formerly of Duke University and the University of Arizona, current Chair and healthcare educator at the Department of Medicine and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, discusses the role of the pulmonary system and how it is affected by airway diseases, as well as the most common pulmonary disorders, what happens when the pulmonary system is damaged, and how it can lead to serious medical complications.
The Role of the Pulmonary System
The pulmonary system is responsible for taking oxygen from the air we breathe and delivering it to our bloodstream. This oxygen is used by the body’s cells to perform necessary functions and keep us healthy. Within the pulmonary system, oxygen is dispersed throughout the body, allowing our organs to function properly.
What Happens When the System is Damaged
When the pulmonary system is damaged, it can no longer efficiently deliver oxygen to the body, which can lead to a large number of medical complications. These can include cardio-pulmonary problems, such as an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, or even issues with the immune system, limiting one’s ability to fight off infections. The decreased oxygen can also cause fatigue and shortness of breath.
Common Pulmonary Diseases
Asthma and COPD are two of the most common pulmonary diseases. Asthma is a chronic condition that causes inflammation, a narrowing of the airways, and is usually caused by environmental triggers such as dust, smoke, pet dander, or pollen.
COPD is a progressive lung disease that is caused by long-term exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and chemicals. Both can cause significant breathing difficulties and may become life-threatening if left untreated.
Those at High Risk
Those who are most at risk for developing airway diseases are people who are exposed to irritants in their environment, such as those who work in industrial or manufacturing settings, or those who live in areas with high levels of air pollution. Smokers (current and former), and those with a family history of pulmonary diseases are also more likely to develop airway diseases.
How to Prevent Pulmonary Disease from Progressing
The best way to prevent airway diseases from progressing is to avoid exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke and potential triggers, like dust, mold, or pet dander. It is also important to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle, as this can help to strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of developing additional cardiac or pulmonary diseases.
For someone already suffering from an airway disease, it is important to follow a doctor’s instructions and use any medications prescribed to manage the symptoms. After all, airway diseases can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life, and can even lead to premature death.
The Bottom Line
Those struggling with pulmonary disease are at an increased risk of developing medical complications, such as cardio-pulmonary problems and a decreased ability to fight off infections. To reduce these risks, it is important to avoid exposure to irritants, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and get regular checkups to monitor medical conditions. By doing so, everyone can help to protect themselves and reduce the risk of developing additional, serious complications.