Respiratory disease

Respiratory Disease
Classification and external resources

Micrograph of an emphysematous lung; emphysema is a common respiratory disease, strongly associated with smoking. H&E stain.
ICD-10 J00-J99
ICD-9 460-519
MeSH D012140

Respiratory disease is a medical term that encompasses pathological conditions affecting the organs and tissues that make gas exchange possible in higher organisms, and includes conditions of the upper respiratory tract, trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, alveoli, pleura and pleural cavity, and the nerves and muscles of breathing. Respiratory diseases range from mild and self-limiting, such as the common cold, to life-threatening entities like bacterial pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, and lung cancer.

The study of respiratory disease is known as pulmonology. A doctor who specializes in respiratory disease is known as a pulmonologist, a chest medicine specialist, a respiratory medicine specialist, a respirologist or a thoracic medicine specialist.

Contents

Classification

Respiratory diseases can be classified in many different ways, including by the organ or tissue involved, by the type and pattern of associated signs and symptoms, or by the cause (etiology) of the disease.

Inflammatory lung disease

Characterised by a high neutrophil count, e.g. asthma, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or acute respiratory distress syndrome.[1]

Allergic reactions due to exposure to certain agents (i.e. foods) are a relatively common cause of acute respiratory disease. Some common examples include sea foods prawns, some fatty fish, radish, arrow root, lady's finger, lemon, moong dhal, peanuts, water content spinach, curd, bananas, grapes, pomegranates, berries, custard apple, ice creams, etc. In summer, bad weather condition mean sandy and dusty weather or some may affect in winter also.

Obstructive lung diseases

Obstructive lung diseases are diseases of the lung where the airways (i.e. bronchi, bronchioles, alveoli) become reduced in volume or have free flow of gas impeded, making it more difficult to move air in and out of the lung.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which includes asthma an example of an obstructive lung disease, is where the airways become damaged, causing them to narrow.

Asthma

Asthma is another example of an obstructive lung disease, (and of an inflammatory lung disease).

Asthma attacks can be brought on by triggers, such as air pollution, tobacco smoke, factory fumes, cleaning solvents, infections, pollens, foods, cold air, exercise, chemicals and medications. Triggers are highly individual and may not be related to allergens. Many asthmatics are not allergic to common allergens such as mold, ragweed, dust or pollens. Asthma is a difficulty in breathing causing wheezing due to inflammation of bronchi and bronchioles

Restrictive lung diseases

Restrictive lung diseases (also known as interstitial lung diseases) are a category of respiratory disease characterized by a loss of lung compliance,[2] causing incomplete lung expansion and increased lung stiffness. E.g. in infant respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS).

Respiratory tract infections

Infections can affect any part of the respiratory system. They are traditionally divided into upper respiratory tract infections and lower respiratory tract infections.

Upper respiratory tract infection

The most common upper respiratory tract infection is the common cold however, infections of specific organs of the upper respiratory tract such as sinusitis, tonsillitis, otitis media, pharyngitis and laryngitis are also considered upper respiratory tract infections.

Lower respiratory tract infection

The most common lower respiratory tract infection in is pneumonia, a lung infection. Pneumonia is usually caused by bacteria, particularly Streptococcus pneumoniae in Western countries. Worldwide, tuberculosis is an important cause of pneumonia. Other pathogens such as viruses and fungi can cause pneumonia for example severe acute respiratory syndrome and pneumocystis pneumonia. A pneumonia may develop complications such as a lung abscess, a round cavity in the lung caused by the infection, or may spread to the pleural cavity.

Respiratory tumors

Tumours of the respiratory system are either malignant or benign.

Malignant tumors

Malignant tumors, or cancers of the respiratory system, particularly lung cancers, are a major health problem responsible for 15% of all cancer diagnoses and 29% of all cancer deaths.[3] The majority of respiratory system cancers are attributable to smoking tobacco.

The major types of respiratory system cancer are:

In addition, since many cancers spread via the bloodstream and the entire cardiac output passes through the lungs, it is common for cancer metastases to occur within the lung. Breast cancer may invade directly through local spread, and through lymph node metastases. After metastasis to the liver, colon cancer frequently metastasizes to the lung. Prostate cancer, germ cell cancer and renal cell carcinoma may also metastasize to the lung.

Treatment of respiratory system cancer depends on the type of cancer. Surgery (usually removal of part of the lung, a lobectomy or an entire lung, a pneumonectomy), chemotherapy and radiotherapy are all used. The chance of surviving lung cancer depends on the cancer stage at the time the cancer is diagnosed and is only about 14-17% overall.[4] In the case of metastases to the lung, treatment can occasionally be curative but only in certain, rare circumstances.

Benign tumors

Benign tumors are relatively rare causes of respiratory disease. Examples of benign tumors are:

Pleural cavity diseases

Pleural cavity diseases include emphysema and pleural mesothelioma which are mentioned above.

A collection of fluid in the pleural cavity is known as a pleural effusion. This may be due to fluid shifting from the bloodstream into the pleural cavity due to conditions such as congestive heart failure and cirrhosis. It may also be due to inflammation of the pleura itself as can occur with infection, pulmonary embolus, tuberculosis, mesothelioma and other conditions.

A pneumothorax is a hole in the pleura covering the lung allowing air in the lung to escape into the pleural cavity. The affected lung “collapses” like a deflated balloon. A tension pneumothorax is a particularly severe form of this condition where the air in the pleural cavity cannot escape, so the pneumothorax keeps getting bigger until it compresses the heart and blood vessels, leading to a life threatening situation.

Pulmonary vascular diseases

Pulmonary vascular diseases are conditions that affect the pulmonary circulation. Examples of these conditions are[citation needed]

  • Pulmonary embolism, a blood clot that forms in a vein, breaks free, travels through the heart and lodges in the lungs (thromboembolism). Large pulmonary emboli are fatal, causing sudden death. A number of other substances can also embolise (travel through the blood stream) to the lungs but they are much more rare: fat embolism (particularly after bony injury), amniotic fluid embolism (with complications of labour and delivery), air embolism (iatrogenic - caused by invasive medical procedures).
  • Pulmonary arterial hypertension, elevated pressure in the pulmonary arteries. Most commonly it is idiopathic (i.e. of unknown cause) but it can be due to the effects of another disease, particularly COPD. This can lead to strain on the right side of the heart, a condition known as cor pulmonale.
  • Pulmonary edema, leakage of fluid from capillaries of the lung into the alveoli (or air spaces). It is usually due to congestive heart failure.
  • Pulmonary hemorrhage, inflammation and damage to capillaries in the lung resulting in blood leaking into the alveoli. This may cause blood to be coughed up. Pulmonary hemorrhage can be due to auto-immune disorders such as Wegener's Granulomatosis and Goodpasture's syndrome.

Diagnosis

Respiratory diseases may be investigated by performing one or more of the following tests

Epidemiology

Respiratory disease is a common and important cause of illness and death around the world. In the US, approximately 1 billion "common colds" occur each year.[5] In the UK, approximately 1 in 7 individuals are affected by some form of chronic lung disease, most commonly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.[6] Respiratory diseases (including lung cancer) are responsible for over 10% of hospitalizations and over 16% of deaths in Canada.[7]

References


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