The official blog of the Lung Institute.
There are two major categories of chronic lung diseases: obstructive and restrictive. While obstructive and restrictive lung disease may cause similar symptoms, they affect the lungs in different ways. Within these categories are specific types of chronic lung disease. For example, interstitial lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis fall into the restrictive lung disease category. However, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and chronic bronchitis fall into the obstructive lung disease category. In this article, we’ll discuss the question, “what is obstructive lung disease?”
What’s the Difference between Obstructive and Restrictive Lung Disease?
To answer the question “what is obstructive lung disease,” you first have to understand the differences between obstructive and restrictive lung disease. The main difference between obstructive and restrictive lung disease is how these types of conditions affect the lungs.
People with restrictive lung disease have trouble fully expanding their lungs. This makes it hard for them to fill their lungs with air. Simply put, their lungs are restricted from normal breathing.
However, people with obstructive lung disease have trouble exhaling old air from their lungs. This makes it hard for them to inhale fresh air. The air trapped inside their lungs obstructs or blocks the new air from entering their lungs.
What is Obstructive Lung Disease?
As we explained above, obstructive lung diseases make it difficult for people to exhale old air from their lungs. When air becomes trapped inside the lungs, there isn’t much room left for fresh air to come inside.
The most common types of obstructive lung disease are COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Often, these pulmonary conditions occur together.
Typically, COPD is characterized by the obstruction of airflow into and out of the lungs. COPD encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In emphysema, the lungs’ tiny air sacs or alveoli are gradually destroyed. In chronic bronchitis, the air passages become inflamed, and the lungs produce excess mucus.
What Causes Obstructive Lung Disease?
Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of COPD. If you’re currently smoking, it’s very important to talk with your doctor about tips to help you stop smoking and live smoke-free. While quitting smoking is challenging, there are many benefits to your long-term health.
In addition to smoking, people working in certain professions or in people living in certain polluted environments may be at a higher risk for developing chronic lung disease. Also, people who have certain genetic disorders, such as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, could develop COPD without ever smoking.
What are the Symptoms of Obstructive Lung Disease?
The most common symptoms of COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis are constant coughing, shortness of breath and fatigue. However, chronic lung diseases affect everyone differently, so it’s important to know your symptoms. If you notice a change or worsening on your symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
Obstructive Lung Disease Symptoms:
- Shortness of Breath
- Chronic Cough
- Excessive Mucus Production
- Sleep Apnea
- Chest Tightness
- Frequent Respiratory Infections
What Can You Do?
If you think you may have a chronic lung disease of any kind, the first step is to have an evaluation performed by your doctor. Your doctor may order certain blood tests, exercise tolerance tests or pulmonary function tests to help determine if you have obstructive lung disease. After you and your doctor have a clear diagnosis, your doctor will develop a treatment plan individualized to your specific needs.
Obstructive lung diseases affect everyone differently and at varying rates of progression. For some people, the condition progresses rapidly. For others, it progresses slowly over time. See your doctor regularly even if you’re feeling well. Your doctor will monitor you, your symptoms and your treatment plan closely.
Currently, there isn’t a cure for COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or other chronic lung diseases. However, there are treatment options available to help manage symptoms. For example, doctors often prescribe medications, inhalers, oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation to their lung disease patients.
In addition, you may decide to try other types of therapies, such stem cell therapy. For many people, stem cell therapy has helped them return to their favorite activities. Stem cell therapy has the potential to promote healing from within the lungs and may improve quality of life. If you or a loved one has an obstructive or restrictive lung disease and would like to learn more about stem cell treatment, contact us at (800) 729-3065.