Healthy Lung Month: 3 Incurable Lung Diseases to Be Aware Of

Posted On Tuesday, 02 October 2018
Healthy Lung Month: 3 Incurable Lung Diseases to Be Aware Of

Lung health and function are not easily ignored. Each day, the average human takes somewhere between 16,000 and 30,000 breaths. So many of us breathe effortlessly on a daily basis, but for others, it is a constant battle to make it through their day.

October is the time to celebrate happy lungs and to understand issues for serious lung problems.

1) Emphysema

Emphysema is a progressive, long-term disease of the lungs with no known cure. Lungs are made up of tiny air sacs that look similar to a sponge. Lung tissue is often compared to a sponge, with a healthy pair of lungs looking like a new sponge and emphysematous lungs resembling an old, clogged sponge that needs to be replaced. Emphysema creates large holes in the tissue of a patient’s lungs, which prevents normal breathing. The large holes in the tissue will cause air to become trapped in the lungs and stop the small blood vessels from giving the lungs proper blood flow. A lack of blood flow combined with holes in the lining of the lungs essentially impair the person from inhaling and exhaling normally.

Smoking is the leading cause of emphysema. Smoking negatively affects the body in two ways. Long term smoking attacks lung tissue creating pockets and holes in the air sacs. Smoking also causes inflammation and infections in the airways which create obstacles in the body making breathing more difficult to do. Shortness of breath is the most common symptom and sign to the diagnoses of emphysema. For many patients, it is common to experience “pursed-lip breathing,” where the patient will struggle to fully exhale in an attempt to remove all the trapped air in their chest.

Those who have prolonged exposure to daily smokers have a high risk for this disease due to second-hand contact. Men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with emphysema. However, the reasons for this remain unknown, and some studies suspect hormone levels are a contributing factor. Lastly, as the body ages, it’s natural for organs in the body to weaken. People are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease of old age.

2) Mesothelioma

Another disease that directly harms the body’s lungs, although not commonly until later stages in life is mesothelioma cancer. This particular cancer is stereotypically diagnosed in older patients -- not due to organ deterioration, but because of the decades-long latency period from asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma has no cure and can take anywhere from 20-50 years for the body to show symptoms. If disturbed, asbestos can become airborne and can attack the lining of the lungs and chest wall after being inhaled or ingested.

Unlike other diseases which can be prevented by incorporating more exercise into a weekly routine or not smoking cigarettes, the typical mesothelioma patient is usually unaware of when or how they were exposed to asbestos before they receive a diagnosis. The prognosis for this specific cancer is very poor, which is why early detection is key to a longer life. Asking questions and looking into simple things such as past job sites of family members, and looking into the age of a home’s insulation to see if it contains asbestos are all preventative measures for contracting this disease.

Mesothelioma is commonly misdiagnosed because its symptoms are so vague and can be passed off as less harmful illnesses, such as pneumonia or even the flu. Patients can experience shortness of breath, chest pain, fever and night sweats, chronic coughing and much more.

3) Asthma

One in 12 Americans has asthma, and that number is projected to increase every year. Asthma is a lung disease that flares up in what is known as an attack when the breathing passages of the lungs become inflamed. While there is no cure for asthma, the earlier a person is diagnosed, the better treatment options there are to monitor and keep it under control.

There are a number of different types of asthma. One common type of asthma is brought on by exercise. The more inflamed an individual’s airways are, the less exercise a person can endure before it will become unsafe to do so without an inhaler on hand. Allergy asthma can fluctuate in severity depending on factors such as seasons or weather patterns changing, the presence of mold, and other household toxins being released into the air. A third type of asthma is severe. In cases where patients have severe asthma, the illness can be monitored correctly, but the patient may still frequently struggle to catch their breath. Severe asthma can impair a patient from living a normal, carefree life.

Take Action

Taking preventative measures to keep one’s lungs healthy is of the utmost importance. One should not smoke, and should be mindful of those around them who smoke. Increased walking and other types of exercise will benefit the lungs while also improving cardiovascular and respiratory health. All individuals should never hesitate to speak with their physicians if they have questions about their personal lung health, as it is key to a strong and healthy body.

Emily Walsh

Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Director at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her role is to connect the alliance in different relevant online communities in order to help raise awareness around the dangers that asbestos still poses today and to help prevent future outbreak of mesothelioma cancer. She is passionate about helping cancer patients discover holistic complementary therapies that address the well-being of the mind, body & spirit.

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