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1

Jun

2018

Asthma

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What Is Asthma?

Asthma (AZ-ma) is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.

Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts in childhood. In the United States, more than 22 million people are known to have asthma. Nearly 6 million of these people are children.

Overview

The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. People who have asthma have inflamed airways. This makes the airways swollen and very sensitive. They tend to react strongly to certain substances that are breathed in.

When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten. This causes the airways to narrow, and less air flows to your lungs. The swelling also can worsen, making the airways even narrower. Cells in the airways may make more mucus than normal. Mucus is a sticky, thick liquid that can further narrow your airways.

This chain reaction can result in asthma symptoms. Symptoms can happen each time the airways are irritated.

Figure A shows the location of the lungs and airways in the body. Figure B shows a cross-section of a normal airway. Figure C shows a cross-section of an airway during asthma symptoms.

Sometimes symptoms are mild and go away on their own or after minimal treatment with an asthma medicine. At other times, symptoms continue to get worse. When symptoms get more intense and/or additional symptoms appear, this is an asthma attack. Asthma attacks also are called flareups or exacerbations.

It’s important to treat symptoms when you first notice them. This will help prevent the symptoms from worsening and causing a severe asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can cause death.
Outlook

Asthma can’t be cured. Even when you feel fine, you still have the disease and it can flare up at any time.

But with today’s knowledge and treatments, most people who have asthma are able to manage the disease. They have few, if any, symptoms. They can live normal, active lives and sleep through the night without interruption from asthma.

For successful, comprehensive, and ongoing treatment, take an active role in managing your disease. Build strong partnerships with your doctor and other clinicians on your health care team.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


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24

May

2018

Cystic Fibrosis

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What Is Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis (SIS-tik fi-BRO-sis), or CF, is an inherited disease of your secretory glands, including the glands that make mucus and sweat.

“Inherited” means that the disease is passed through the genes from parents to children. People who have CF inherit two faulty CF genes—one from each parent. The parents likely don’t have the disease themselves.

CF mostly affects the lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses, and sex organs.

Overview

Mucus is a substance made by the lining of some body tissues. Normally, mucus is a slippery, watery substance. It keeps the linings of certain organs moist and prevents them from drying out or getting infected. However, if you have CF, your mucus becomes thick and sticky.

The mucus builds up in your lungs and blocks your airways—the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. The buildup of mucus makes it easy for bacteria to grow. This leads to repeated, serious lung infections. Over time, these infections can severely damage your lungs.

The thick, sticky mucus also can block tubes, or ducts, in your pancreas. As a result, the digestive enzymes that your pancreas makes can’t reach your small intestine.

These enzymes help break down the food that you eat. Without them, your intestines can’t fully absorb fats and proteins. This can cause vitamin deficiency and malnutrition because nutrients leave your body unused. It also can cause bulky stools, intestinal gas, a swollen belly from severe constipation, and pain or discomfort.

CF also causes your sweat to become very salty. As a result, your body loses large amounts of salt when you sweat. This can upset the balance of minerals in your blood and cause a number of health problems. Examples include dehydration (a condition in which your body doesn’t have enough fluids), increased heart rate, tiredness, weakness, decreased blood pressure, heat stroke, and, rarely, death.

If you or your child has CF, you’re also at increased risk for diabetes or a bone-thinning condition called osteoporosis. CF also causes infertility in men, and it can make it harder for women to get pregnant.

Outlook

The symptoms and severity of CF vary from person to person. Some people who have CF have serious lung and digestive problems. Other people have more mild disease that doesn’t show up until they’re adolescents or adults.

The symptoms and severity of CF also vary over time. Sometimes, you will have few symptoms. Other times, your symptoms may become more severe. As the disease gets worse, you will have more severe symptoms more often.

Lung function often starts to decline in early childhood in people who have CF. Over time, permanent damage to the lungs can cause severe breathing problems. Respiratory failure is the most common cause of death in people who have CF.

As treatments for CF continue to improve, so does life expectancy for those who have the disease. Today, some people who have CF are living into their forties, fifties, or older.

Early treatment for CF can improve both your quality of life and lifespan. Such early treatment includes nutritional and respiratory therapies, medicines, exercise, and other treatments.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


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14

May

2018

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

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What Is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?

Pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) rehabilitation, also called pulmonary rehab or PR, is a broad program that helps improve the well-being of people who have chronic (ongoing) breathing problems.

For example, PR may benefit people who have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), sarcoidosis (sar-koy-DOE-sis), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or cystic fibrosis.

PR also can benefit people who need lung surgery, both before and after the surgery.

PR doesn’t replace medical therapy. Instead, it’s used with medical therapy and may include:

  • Exercise training
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Education on your lung disease or condition and how to manage it
  • Energy-conserving techniques
  • Breathing strategies
  • Psychological counseling and/or group support

PR involves a long-term commitment from the patient and a team of health care providers. The PR team may include doctors, nurses, and specialists. Examples of specialists include respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians or nutritionists, and psychologists or social workers.

PR often is an outpatient program based in a hospital or clinic. Some patients also can receive PR in their homes.

When you start PR, your rehab team will create a plan that’s tailored to your abilities and needs. You’ll likely attend your PR program weekly. Your team also will expect you to follow your plan, including exercises and lifestyle changes, at home.

PR has many benefits. It can improve your ability to function and your quality of life. The program also may help relieve your breathing problems. Even if you have advanced lung disease, you can still benefit from PR.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


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What Are the Lungs?

Your lungs are organs in your chest that allow your body to take in oxygen from the air. They also help remove carbon dioxide (a waste gas that can be toxic) from your body.

The lungs’ intake of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide is called gas exchange. Gas exchange is part of breathing. Breathing is a vital function of life; it helps your body work properly.

Other organs and tissues also help make breathing possible.

The Respiratory System

The respiratory system is a group of organs and tissues that help you breathe. The main parts of this system are the airways, the lungs and linked blood vessels, and the muscles that enable breathing.

Figure A shows the location of the respiratory structures in the body. Figure B is an enlarged view of the airways, alveoli (air sacs), and capillaries (tiny blood vessels). Figure C shows the location of gas exchange between the capillaries and alveoli. CO2 is carbon dioxide, and O2 is oxygen.

Airways

The airways are pipes that carry oxygen-rich air to your lungs and carbon dioxide, a waste gas, out of your lungs. The airways include your:

  • Nose and linked air passages (called nasal cavities)
  • Mouth
  • Larynx (LAR-ingks), or voice box
  • Trachea (TRA-ke-ah), or windpipe
  • Tubes called bronchial tubes or bronchi, and their branches

Air first enters your body through your nose or mouth, which wets and warms the air. (Cold, dry air can irritate your lungs.) The air then travels through your voice box and down your windpipe. The windpipe splits into two bronchial tubes that enter your lungs.

A thin flap of tissue called the epiglottis (ep-i-GLOT-is) covers your windpipe when you swallow. This prevents food or drink from entering the air passages that lead to your lungs.

Except for the mouth and some parts of the nose, all of the airways have special hairs called cilia (SIL-e-ah) that are coated with sticky mucus. The cilia trap germs and other foreign particles that enter your airways when you breathe in air.

These fine hairs then sweep the particles up to the nose or mouth. From there, they’re swallowed, coughed, or sneezed out of the body. Nose hairs and mouth saliva also trap particles and germs.
Lungs and Blood Vessels

Your lungs and linked blood vessels deliver oxygen to your body and remove carbon dioxide from your body. Your lungs lie on either side of your breastbone and fill the inside of your chest cavity. Your left lung is slightly smaller than your right lung to allow room for your heart.

Within the lungs, your bronchi branch into thousands of smaller, thinner tubes called bronchioles. These tubes end in bunches of tiny round air sacs called alveoli (al-VEE-uhl-eye).

Each of these air sacs is covered in a mesh of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. The capillaries connect to a network of arteries and veins that move blood through your body.

The pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) artery and its branches deliver blood rich in carbon dioxide (and lacking in oxygen) to the capillaries that surround the air sacs. Inside the air sacs, carbon dioxide moves from the blood into the air. At the same time, oxygen moves from the air into the blood in the capillaries.

The oxygen-rich blood then travels to the heart through the pulmonary vein and its branches. The heart pumps the oxygen-rich blood out to the body. (For more information about blood flow, go to the Diseases and Conditions Index How the Heart Works article.)

The lungs are divided into five main sections called lobes. Some people need to have a diseased lung lobe removed. However, they can still breathe well using the rest of their lung lobes.
Muscles Used for Breathing

Muscles near the lungs help expand and contract (tighten) the lungs to allow breathing. These muscles include the:

  • Diaphragm (DI-a-fram)
  • Intercostal muscles
  • Abdominal muscles
  • Muscles in the neck and collarbone area

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle located below your lungs. It separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The diaphragm is the main muscle used for breathing.

The intercostal muscles are located between your ribs. They also play a major role in helping you breathe.

Beneath your diaphragm are abdominal muscles. They help you breathe out when you’re breathing fast (for example, during physical activity).

Muscles in your neck and collarbone area help you breathe in when other muscles involved in breathing don’t work well, or when lung disease impairs your breathing.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


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23

Apr

2018

Oxygen Therapy

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What Is Oxygen Therapy?

Oxygen therapy is a treatment that provides you with extra oxygen, a gas that your body needs to work properly.

Normally, your lungs absorb oxygen from the air. However, some diseases and conditions can prevent you from getting enough oxygen. Oxygen therapy can help ensure that you get enough oxygen, which may help you function better and be more active.

Oxygen is supplied in a metal cylinder or other container. It flows through a tube and is delivered to your lungs in one of the following ways:

  • Through a nasal cannula, which consists of two small plastic tubes, or prongs, that are placed in both nostrils.
  • Through a face mask, which fits over your nose and mouth.
  • Through a tracheostomy (TRA-ke-OS-to-me). This is a surgically made hole that goes through the front of your neck and into your windpipe. A breathing tube is placed in the hole to help you breathe. Oxygen delivered this way is called transtracheal oxygen therapy.

Oxygen therapy can be done in a hospital, another medical setting, or at home. If you need oxygen therapy for a chronic (ongoing) disease or condition, you may receive home oxygen therapy.

Overview

To understand how oxygen therapy works, it helps to understand how your respiratory system works. This system is a group of organs and tissues that help you breathe. It includes the airways and lungs.

The airways are pipes that carry oxygen-rich air to your lungs. They also carry carbon dioxide, a waste gas, out of your lungs.

Air enters your body through your nose or mouth, which moistens and warms the air. The air then travels through your voice box and down your windpipe. The windpipe divides into two tubes called bronchi that enter your lungs.

Within your lungs, your bronchi branch into thousands of smaller, thinner tubes called bronchioles (BRONG-ke-ols). These tubes end in bunches of tiny round air sacs called alveoli (al-VEE-uhl-eye).

Each of these air sacs is covered in a mesh of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. The capillaries connect to a network of arteries and veins that move blood through your body.

Oxygen from the air moves through the very thin walls of the alveoli to the surrounding capillaries. The oxygen-rich blood then travels to the heart through the pulmonary vein and its branches. The heart pumps the oxygen-rich blood to your organs. (For more information, go to the Diseases and Conditions Index How the Lungs Work article.)

Certain acute (short-term) and chronic (ongoing) diseases and conditions can affect the transfer of oxygen from the alveoli into the blood. Examples include pneumonia (nu-MO-ne-ah) and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Your doctor will decide whether you need oxygen therapy based on the results of tests, such as an arterial blood gas test and a pulse oximetry test. These tests measure how much oxygen is in your blood. A low level of oxygen is a sign that you need oxygen therapy.

Because oxygen is considered a medicine, your doctor must prescribe it.

Outlook

For many people who get oxygen therapy, the supplemental (extra) oxygen allows them to function better and be more active. Oxygen therapy can help in various ways. It may help:

  • Decrease shortness of breath and fatigue (tiredness)
  • Improve sleep in some people who have sleep-related breathing disorders
  • Increase the lifespan of some people who have COPD

Although you may need oxygen long term, the therapy doesn’t have to limit your daily routine. Portable oxygen units can make it easier for you to move around and do many daily activities. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about whether certain activities are safe for you.

A home equipment provider will work with you to make sure you have the supplies and equipment you need. Trained personnel also will show you how to use the equipment correctly and safely.

Oxygen therapy generally is safe, but the oxygen can pose a fire hazard. To use your oxygen safely, follow the instructions you receive from your home equipment provider.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


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20

Apr

2018

COPD – Emphysema

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What Is COPD?

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. “Progressive” means the disease gets worse over time.

COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus (a slimy substance), wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust, also may contribute to COPD.
Overview

To understand COPD, it helps to understand how the lungs work. The air that you breathe goes down your windpipe into tubes in your lungs called bronchial tubes or airways.

Within the lungs, your bronchial tubes branch into thousands of smaller, thinner tubes called bronchioles. These tubes end in bunches of tiny round air sacs called alveoli (al-VEE-uhl-eye).

Small blood vessels called capillaries run through the walls of the air sacs. When air reaches the air sacs, the oxygen in the air passes through the air sac walls into the blood in the capillaries. At the same time, carbon dioxide (a waste gas) moves from the capillaries into the air sacs. This process is called gas exchange.

The airways and air sacs are elastic (stretchy). When you breathe in, each air sac fills up with air like a small balloon. When you breathe out, the air sacs deflate and the air goes out.

In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:

* The airways and air sacs lose their elastic quality.
* The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed.
* The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed.
* The airways make more mucus than usual, which tends to clog them.

Normal Lungs and Lungs With COPD

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


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6

Apr

2018

Bronchitis

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What Is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis (bron-KI-tis) is a condition in which the bronchial tubes, the tubes that carry air to your lungs, become inflamed. (For more information on the bronchial tubes and the airways, see the “How the Lungs Work” article.)

People who have bronchitis often have a cough that brings up mucus. Mucus is a slimy substance made by the lining of the bronchial tubes. Bronchitis also may cause wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe), chest pain or discomfort, a low fever, and shortness of breath.
Overview

There are two main types of bronchitis: acute (short term) and chronic (ongoing).

Acute Bronchitis

Infections or other factors that irritate the lungs cause acute bronchitis. The same viruses that cause colds and the flu often cause acute bronchitis. These viruses are spread through the air when people cough. They also are spread through physical contact (for example, on hands that have not been washed). Sometimes bacteria cause acute bronchitis.

Acute bronchitis lasts from a few days to 10 days. However, the cough that occurs may last for several weeks after the infection is gone.

Several factors increase the risk for acute bronchitis. Examples include tobacco smoke (including secondhand smoke), air pollution, dust, and fumes. Avoiding these lung irritants as much as possible can help lower your risk for acute bronchitis.

Most cases of acute bronchitis go away within a few days. If you think you have acute bronchitis, see your doctor. He or she will want to rule out other, more serious health conditions that need medical care.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is an ongoing, serious condition. It occurs when the lining of the bronchial tubes is constantly irritated and inflamed.

Bronchitis is “chronic” if you have a cough with mucus on most days for at least 3 months a year and 2 years in a row (without another apparent cause). Smoking is the main cause of chronic bronchitis.

Viruses or bacteria can easily infect the irritated bronchial tubes. When this happens, the condition worsens and lasts longer. As a result, people who have chronic bronchitis also have periods when symptoms get much worse than usual.

Chronic bronchitis is a serious, long-term medical condition. Early diagnosis and treatment, combined with quitting cigarette smoking and avoiding secondhand cigarette smoke, can help people live better with this condition. The chance of complete recovery is low for people who have severe chronic bronchitis

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


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5

Mar

2018

Pneumonia

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What Is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia (nu-MO-ne-ah) is an infection in one or both of the lungs. Many small germs, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, can cause pneumonia.

The infection causes your lungs’ air sacs, called alveoli (al-VEE-uhl-eye), to become inflamed. The air sacs may fill up with fluid or pus, causing symptoms such as a cough (with phlegm), fever, chills, and trouble breathing.
Overview

Pneumonia and its symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Many factors affect how serious pneumonia is, such as the type of germ causing the infection and your age and overall health.

Pneumonia tends to be more serious for:

  • Infants and young children.
  • Older adults (people 65 years or older).
  • People who have other health problems like heart failure, diabetes, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
  • People who have weak immune systems as a result of diseases or other factors. These may include HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy (a treatment for cancer), or an organ or bone marrow transplant.

Outlook

Pneumonia is common in the United States. Treatment for pneumonia depends on its cause, how severe your symptoms are, and your age and overall health. Many people can be treated at home, often with oral antibiotics.

Children usually start to feel better in 1 to 2 days. For adults, it usually takes 2 to 3 days. Anyone whose symptoms get worse should be checked by a doctor.

People who have more severe symptoms or underlying health problems may need treatment in a hospital. It may take 3 weeks or more before they can go back to their normal routines.

Fatigue (tiredness) from pneumonia can last for a month or more.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


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14

Feb

2018

COPD

By . Posted in COPD | No Comments »

What Is COPD?

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. “Progressive” means the disease gets worse over time.

COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus (a slimy substance), wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust, also may contribute to COPD.
Overview

To understand COPD, it helps to understand how the lungs work. The air that you breathe goes down your windpipe into tubes in your lungs called bronchial tubes or airways.

Within the lungs, your bronchial tubes branch into thousands of smaller, thinner tubes called bronchioles. These tubes end in bunches of tiny round air sacs called alveoli (al-VEE-uhl-eye).

Small blood vessels called capillaries run through the walls of the air sacs. When air reaches the air sacs, the oxygen in the air passes through the air sac walls into the blood in the capillaries. At the same time, carbon dioxide (a waste gas) moves from the capillaries into the air sacs. This process is called gas exchange.

The airways and air sacs are elastic (stretchy). When you breathe in, each air sac fills up with air like a small balloon. When you breathe out, the air sacs deflate and the air goes out.

In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:

  • The airways and air sacs lose their elastic quality.
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed.
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed.
  • The airways make more mucus than usual, which tends to clog them.

Figure A shows the location of the lungs and airways in the body. The inset image shows a detailed cross-section of the bronchioles and alveoli. Figure B shows lungs damaged by COPD. The inset image shows a detailed cross-section of the damaged bronchioles and alveolar walls.

In the United States, the term “COPD” includes two main conditions—emphysema (em-fi-SE-ma) and chronic bronchitis (bron-KI-tis). (Note: The Diseases and Conditions Index article about bronchitis discusses both acute and chronic bronchitis.)

In emphysema, the walls between many of the air sacs are damaged, causing them to lose their shape and become floppy. This damage also can destroy the walls of the air sacs, leading to fewer and larger air sacs instead of many tiny ones. If this happens, the amount of gas exchange in the lungs is reduced.

In chronic bronchitis, the lining of the airways is constantly irritated and inflamed. This causes the lining to thicken. Lots of thick mucus forms in the airways, making it hard to breathe.

Most people who have COPD have both emphysema and chronic obstructive bronchitis. Thus, the general term “COPD” is more accurate.

Outlook

COPD is a major cause of disability, and it’s the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD. Many more people may have the disease and not even know it.

COPD develops slowly. Symptoms often worsen over time and can limit your ability to do routine activities. Severe COPD may prevent you from doing even basic activities like walking, cooking, or taking care of yourself.

Most of the time, COPD is diagnosed in middle-aged or older people. The disease isn’t passed from person to person—you can’t catch it from someone else.

COPD has no cure yet, and doctors don’t know how to reverse the damage to the airways and lungs. However, treatments and lifestyle changes can help you feel better, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


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