Lungs are the main organ of the body’s respiratory system. When we breathe, our lungs absorb oxygen which is transported to and the all parts of our body, harmful carbon dioxide is removed from our system, keeping our body healthy and running. In recent years, due to several lifestyle and environmental changes, our respiratory health is suffering greatly, giving rise to a many acute as well as chronic and long-term lung diseases.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, occupational lung diseases, bronchitis, and pulmonary hypertension are among the most common chronic lung diseases. Children, the elderly, and those with weak immune system are especially vulnerable to the chronic lung diseases. Globally asthma affected approximately 339 million  people, according to the World Health Organization. Even the number of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is also increasing. It has affected 384 million  people worldwide.

There are several factors contributing to the increased risk of developing chronic lung diseases. Some of them are:

  • Smoking: Smoking causes damage to the airways and the small air sacs in the lungs which can cause lung disease. People who do not smoke but are exposed to secondhand smoke inhale many of the same poisonous substances and can develop chronic lung disease.
  • Air pollution: According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is second tobacco epidemic and is responsible for 7 million  deaths worldwide each year. Exposure to harmful air pollutants not only damages the lung function and causes chronic lung diseases but also causes inflammation.
  • Burning fuel: People who are exposed to fumes from burning fuel for cooking in poorly ventilated homes are more likely to develop chronic lung diseases.
  • Genetics: People with genetic conditions are also at the risk of developing lung diseases. For example: Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency effects the lungs and can cause COPD.

Warning signs of chronic lung disease

Chronic lung diseases can be extremely dangerous to one’s health, so understanding the symptoms is critical. Though symptoms may vary in different chronic lung disease but there are certain symptoms which are commonly seen in all the patients are persistent breathlessness, cough, wheeze, chest infections, chest pain, mucus production, and fatigue.

Anybody experiencing any of the warning signs should immediately visit a doctor.

What are the preventive measures against chronic long term lung disease?

  • Eat right- Diet has a significant impact on lung health and can aid in its maintenance. To protect the lungs people should consume citrus fruits, vegetables, and antioxidant-rich foods.
  • Strengthen the lungs-People are advised to do breathing exercises because they help to improve the capacity of the lungs and increase the oxygen in the blood. All of this protects the lungs from developing chronic lung diseases.
  • Regular health checkups- As lung diseases can go unnoticed until they are severe, regular health checkups can help prevent them.
  • Quit smoking- As smoking is a major risk factor for developing chronic lung diseases. So, to protect the lungs, it is best to avoid smoking.
  • Proper ventilation- As exposure to fumes from burning cooking fuel in poorly ventilated areas increases the risk, it is critical to ensure that a place is well ventilated before burning cooking fuels.
  • Reduce exposure to outdoor pollution- Unless necessary, avoid going outside because prolonged exposure to air pollution is harmful to lung health.

Treatment options available for chronic long- term lung disease

  • Medications- A variety of medications can be used to treat the symptoms and complications of long-term lung disease. People suffering from early-stage lung diseases (COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary arterial hypertension) are often prescribed long term medications daily to control and manage their symptoms, thereby preventing the progression of the disease. Combination medications, inhaled steroids and short-acting bronchodilator inhalers are some of the common medications, however they should only be taken after consulting adoctor.
  • Therapy- Along with an appropriate medical treatment plan, additional therapies may provide relief to people suffering from chronic lung disease. For example, oxygen therapy, where extra oxygen is provided to the body, can be helpful for patients with lung disease.
  • Lung transplant- Lung transplantation remains the pivotal treatment option once all the possible conservative treatments are exhausted and disease is irreversible. It involves a surgical procedure that helps replace a diseased or failing lung with a healthy one from a deceased donor. Aside from the underlying pulmonary or cardiopulmonary disease, the main selection criteria for transplant candidates are age, mobility, nutritional and muscular condition, and concurrent extrapulmonary disease.

People who have tried medications or other treatments, but whose conditions have not improved sufficiently are candidates for a lung transplant. Depending on the criteria, a lung transplantation is performed and can successfully improve the patient’s quality of life (e.g., in COPD or emphysema) and/or prolong life expectancy (e.g., in cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and pulmonary arterial hypertension).

The treatment protocol for each chronic lung disease varies depending on its type and spread, therefore patients are advised to work closely with doctor to determine what treatment works best for them. The best way to manage symptoms is to monitor lung disease and collaborate with the doctor.



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Views expressed above are the author's own.



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