The respiratory system is prone to a number of diseases and other conditions that can have a significant impact on health, but the good news is that some of these conditions can be easily prevented by making lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking.
There are several types of lung disease that have different effects on the body and manifest different symptoms – from bronchitis to pulmonary hypertension. There are various methods of screening for lung disease, including using specialised lung function tests, X-rays and bronchoscopies, which enable doctors to examine the air passages leading to the lungs in detail. Some bronchoscopy examinations may also include a washing or lavage to collect cells for analysis, looking for possible signs of infection.
Medical procedures such as chemotherapy can also have an effect on the respiratory system, potentially aggravating conditions such as bronchitis, dyspnea, pneumonia, pneumonitis, pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary toxicity. Other causes of lung disease typically involve foreign bodies and other blockages restricting the air flow and function of the lungs and respiratory system in general, which can also result from scars and inflammation.
You can lower your risk of lung disease by taking proper care of your respiratory system and health in general, for instance you might want to try exercising and avoiding excessive fatty foods. You may be at higher risk of lung disease if you work or live in environments where air quality is poor or with a high content of noxious fumes, such as those from car exhausts. Giving up smoking is always recommended as the number one preventative measure people can take to protect themselves against a variety of conditions, including lung cancer.
If you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pains when breathing, it may be wise to consult with a surgeon to have a chest X-ray, which will allow practitioners to identify any potential problems in your lungs, heart or ribs. For prolonged coughs and other conditions, multiple chest X-rays may be required over time to allow doctors to monitor their progress and recommend the best treatment, or you may be referred for more accurate and in-depth screenings such as CAT scans.
If doctors suspect conditions such as blood clots in the lungs, they may conduct a ventilation-perfusion (VQ) scan or a pulmonary function test (PFT), particularly if you developed breathing problems following chemotherapy. Lung disease can affect people of all backgrounds and of different ages, but you will usually be at higher risk if you are older, a smoker or live in a smoking household.