The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Doctors classify lung disease as either obstructive or restrictive. The term obstructive lung disease includes conditions that hinder a person’s ability to exhale all the air from their lungs. Those with restrictive lung disease experience difficulty fully expanding their lungs. Obstructive and restrictive lung disease share one main symptom–shortness of breath with any sort of physical exertion. Here’s what you need to know about the difference between obstructive and restrictive lung disease.
Obstructive Lung Diseases
Obstructive lung disease and its characteristic narrowing of pulmonary airways hinder a person’s ability to completely expel air from the lungs. The practical result is that by the end of every breath, quite a bit of air remains in the lungs. Some common conditions related to obstructive lung disease include:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis
- Cystic Fibrosis
Obstructive lung disease makes breathing especially harder during increased activity or exertion. Exhalations take longer with obstructive lung disease, so that as the rate of breathing increases and the lungs work harder, the amount of fresh air circulated into the lungs, and spent air circulated out, decreases.
Restrictive Lung Diseases
People suffering from restrictive lung disease have a hard time fully expanding their lungs when they inhale. That is, it’s more difficult to fill lungs with air. This is a result of the lungs being restricted from fully expanding. This can occur when tissue in the chest wall becomes stiffened, or due to weakened muscles or damaged nerves. Any of these factors can restrict the expansion of the lungs. Some of the conditions classified as restrictive lung disease include:
- Interstitial lung disease
- Neuromuscular disease, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Pulmonary fibrosis
The severity of most lung diseases is tested by using a pulmonary function test. Obstructive and restrictive lung diseases can cause shortness of breath, severe coughing and chest pain. Treatments are different for each condition and will require a special treatment plan provided by your doctor. If you have been diagnosed or suspect that you might have a lung disease, you should talk to your doctor about your condition immediately. Do some research on your own to be sure to ask the right questions.
We hope that you have found our article about the difference between obstructive and restrictive lung disease helpful. While having a chronic lung disease presents many challenges, you can improve your quality of life by gaining more knowledge about your condition, learning healthy lifestyles and trying alternative treatments. If you or a loved one is interested in stem cell therapy for lung disease, contact us at the Lung Institute to learn more or call (800) 729-3065.