Authored by Revere Health

What You Need to Know About Lung Disease

June 20, 2017 | Adult and Adolescent MedicineFamily Medicine

With tens of millions of sufferers in the United States alone, lung disease is one of the most common medical conditions on earth. The lungs are part of a complex system in the body, expanding and contracting thousands of times every single day to take in oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide.

Lung disease can come as a result of problems in any part of the lung system, and there are many different types. Here’s a broad overview of the types and causes of lung disease, as well as the warning signs and steps you can take to help reduce your risk of lung disease.


Types and Basic Causes

There are three basic causes of most lung diseases:

  • Smoking
  • Infections
  • Genetics

The respiratory system is made up of several distinct parts: the airways, lungs, blood vessels, muscles and bones. There are numerous types of lung disease within these various areas that can cause a number of issues, each of which is laid out by WebMD here.


Warning Signs

When it comes to the lungs, it’s important to pay attention to even mild symptoms like a nagging cough or a minor wheeze. Many people simply assume these are the result of aging, but they could actually be the first signs of lung disease. Identifying these early signs can help you receive treatment for lung disease before it becomes serious or life threatening. Signs include:

  • Chronic cough: Any cough that you have for at least a month is considered a chronic cough. It’s a vital early signal that something is wrong in the respiratory system.
  • Shortness of breath: If you experience shortness of breath that doesn’t go away after exercise is finished, or if you experience it without any exertion in the first place, this is not normal. In addition, labored breathing—trouble with basic in-and-out breathing—is another warning sign of potential lung disease.
  • Chronic mucus production: Mucus is produced by the airways, meant to act as a defense against infections or irritants in the lungs. If mucus production lasts for a month or more, it could be a sign that lung disease is present.
  • Wheezing: Noisy breathing or wheezing is a signal that something is blocking the lungs’ airways, or causing them to narrow. This could be a sign of lung disease.
  • Coughing up blood: Blood that’s coughed up may come from the lungs or upper respiratory tract, and in either case, it’s a sign of a problem.
  • Chronic chest pain: Chest pain that cannot be explained by another cause and lasts for at least a month is a warning sign, particularly if it gets worse while you breathe in or cough.


Healthy Lung Tips

There are several steps you can take to keep the lungs healthy and reduce your risk of lung disease including:

  • Don’t smoke: Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It can narrow air passages and make breathing troublesome, and can lead to chronic inflammation and chronic bronchitis. It damages lung tissue over time, and can trigger changes that grow into cancer. It’s never too late to quit.
  • Reduce pollutant exposure: Elements like secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemicals and radon exposure can all cause or worsen lung disease. Look for ways to reduce these—make your life smokefree, test the home for radon and avoid exercising outdoors while the air is bad.
  • Protect yourself from infection: A cold or other respiratory infection can become serious, so protecting yourself is important. Wash your hands often, avoid crowds during cold and flu season, practice good oral hygiene, get vaccinated for the flu, and take appropriate safety precautions if you get sick.
  • Get regular healthcare: Regular check-ups help prevent diseases, including lung disease, which can often go undetected until it becomes serious.
  • Exercise: Aerobic exercise can improve lung capacity, and specific breathing exercises can help with lung function.

To learn more about lung disease and how to prevent it, speak to your general physician.

As a physician, I love helping people through stressful times when they may be sick or hurt. I want to be the kind of doctor that I would want for my own family. When a doctor takes the time to help their patients understand what is happening and what the plan is, a patient’s anxiety can be greatly reduced. The patient should receive all the information they need to be an equal partner in decision-making and feel empowered about caring for their body. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


“Lung Health and Diseases.” American Lung Association.

“Lung Diseases Overview.” WebMD.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

Telehealth is not appropriate for every medical concern, so it’s important to ask your provider whether a virtual visit is suitable for your needs.

Learn more about Telehealth

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.