The official blog of the Lung Institute.
People with lung diseases and lung problems know how challenging it can be to breathe. In general, airway diseases, lung tissue diseases and lung circulation diseases are the three main groups of lung disease. However, within those three main groups, there are more defined types of lung diseases. To complicate things more, these lung diseases often involve a combination of airway, lung tissue and circulation problems. So, you might be wondering how you and your doctor will figure out which specific lung disease you have. We’re here to help you better understand your lung problems.
What Are the Three Main Groups of Lung Disease?
Lung problems can occur for many reasons. The three main groups of lung disease are airway diseases, lung tissue diseases and lung circulation diseases. As mentioned earlier, these conditions may occur in combination with one another.
In airway diseases, the tubes or airways that carry oxygen and other gases into and out of the lungs are affected. Typically, the airways narrow, which blocks normal airflow. Often, people with airway diseases describe breathing as “trying to breathe through a straw.” Airway diseases include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis and bronchiectasis.
Lung Tissue Diseases
Lung tissue diseases affect the tissues and structure of the lungs. Often, lung tissue diseases cause scarring or inflammation of the tissues that help the lungs expand. This makes it challenging to breathe in enough oxygen and to release carbon dioxide from the lungs. People with lung tissue diseases feel like they cannot breathe deeply. Lung tissue diseases include pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung diseases.
Lung Circulation Diseases
In lung circulation diseases, the blood vessels of the lungs are affected. Often, lung circulation diseases occur due to clotting, scarring or inflammation of the blood vessels, and it affects the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. In addition, lung circulation diseases may affect heart function. A common example is pulmonary hypertension.
How Are Lung Problems Diagnosed as Lung Disease?
Lung problems and lung diseases affect everyone differently. For some people, lung diseases progress rapidly, and for others, lung diseases progress slowly over time. In most cases, different lung diseases have similar symptoms. To determine which type of lung disease you have, your doctor will likely order pulmonary function tests or lung function tests, chest x-rays, CT scans and blood work.
A single type of lung function test cannot determine all the lung function values, so your doctor may need to perform more than one type of pulmonary function test. Along with your lung problems history and with other diagnostic tests, such as chest x-rays and bloodwork, your doctor will be able to figure out what kind of lung disease you have.
Types of Lung Function Tests:
Lung volume, airflow measurements and exercise tolerance tests help your doctor diagnose lung diseases, monitor how your treatment plan is working and better understand the severity of your symptoms.
- Body Plethysmography
- Gas Diffusion
- Exercise Tolerance
- Pulse Oximetry
What are Chronic Lung Diseases?
Airway diseases and lung tissue diseases make up most chronic lung diseases. There are several types of chronic lung diseases that are broken down into two major groups: obstructive lung disease and restrictive lung disease.
Obstructive lung diseases fall under the airway diseases category, and they make it difficult for people to get air into and out of their lungs. Because people with obstructive lung diseases cannot fully exhale all the air from their lungs, they have trouble breathing in fresh air. Essentially, air becomes trapped within the lungs. Inflammation and swelling narrow the airways, making it difficult to breathe.
Types of Obstructive Lung Diseases
Obstructive Lung Disease Symptoms
- Chronic Cough
- Shortness of Breath
- Excessive Mucus
- Chest Tightness
Types of Restrictive Lung Disease
Restrictive lung diseases fall under the lung tissue diseases category, and they make it difficult for people to fully fill their lungs with air. This means that people with restrictive lung diseases have trouble fully expanding their lungs. Often, restrictive lung diseases cause stiffness in the lungs.
Here are some common types of restrictive lung diseases:
Restrictive Lung Disease Symptoms:
- Shortness of Breath
- Dry Cough
- Weight Loss
- Achy Joints
How Are Lung Problems and Lung Diseases Treated?
Once you have a chronic lung disease diagnosis, you and your doctor will work together to develop a treatment plan. Typically, doctors may prescribe medications and treatments to help manage symptoms. These treatments include inhalers, corticosteroids, oxygen therapy, stem cell therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation and others. Having a specific diagnosis for COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema or another chronic lung disease will help you and your doctor figure out the best treatment options for you.
If you or someone you love has lung problems from COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about stem cell treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.