The lungs are part of a complex apparatus, expanding and relaxing thousands of times each day to bring in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Lung disease can result from problems in any part of this system.
Lung Diseases Affecting the Airways
The trachea (windpipe) branches into tubes called bronchi, which in turn branch to become progressively smaller tubes throughout the lungs. Diseases that affect the airways include:
- Asthma: The airways are persistently inflamed, and may occasionally spasm, causing wheezing and shortness of breath. Allergies, infections, or pollution can trigger asthma’s symptoms.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Lung conditions defined by an inability to exhale normally, which causes difficulty breathing.
- Chronic bronchitis: A form of COPD characterized by a chronic productive cough.
- Emphysema: Lung damage allows air to be trapped in the lungs in this form of COPD. Difficulty blowing air out is its hallmark.
- Acute bronchitis: A sudden infection of the airways, usually by a virus.
- Cystic fibrosis: A genetic condition causing poor clearance of mucus from the bronchi. The accumulated mucus results in repeated lung infections.