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Respiratory Problems & Related Risk Factors

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Asthma is one of the most common forms of a respiratory problem. Asthma is usually caused by:

  1. Smoking, or being in an enclosed area full of smoke (bar/pub)

  2. Heredity, previous family members have experienced asthma problems

  3. Allergies, those who are allergic to pollen, dust, mold, animal hair or dander are more likely to develop asthma

  4. Medications, blood pressure, heart drugs, aspirin, and sleeping pills will worsen asthma

  5. Some foods can cause people to develop asthma

  6. Lung infections

  7. Vigorous exercise

  8. Stress

  9. Air pollution

Other forms of Respiratory problems include:

Bronchitis Pneumonia
Chronic Cough Pneumothorax
Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease Pulmonary Embolism
Emphysema Sleep Apnea - Infants

Snoring and Sleep Apnea - Adults



Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes thicken, and become inflamed and or infected. This causes less air to flow into and out of your lungs.  A thick greenish or yellowish mucous is produced. Coughing will be frequent and painful. A brief episode of bronchitis is brought on by a severe cold or viral infection.Chronic bronchitis is often referred to as "smoker's cough".

Chronic Cough
A cough that lasts a month or more is a chronic cough. A chronic cough can occur at any time in the day, it may only occur in the morning for one person, and in the afternoon for another person. It is also true whether it is a dry cough or a productive cough, one that brings up sputum. A productive cough that lasts for several weeks or comes back every year is usually a sign of chronic bronchitis.

Allergies are one of the most common causes of a chronic cough. In some cases, a decongestant drug may decrease allergic coughing. A chronic cough can also signal asthma, or even cancer. A cough that causes shortness of breath, extreme pain, or blooding of the throat should get medical attention right away. Taking cough drops or syrups for more than a week may only mask the illness while it gets worse.
*Long term use of cough syrups will only hide an illness as it keeps getting worse.

Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, also called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease,  COPD. Chronic bronchitis or emphysema,  are the most common causes of COPD. Early symptoms of COPD include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic lung disease is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD. If you want to know more about chronic obstructive lung disease, call your local chapter of The American Lung Association or (800) LUNG-USA.

Emphysema is a chronic disease that makes it hard to breathe because of physical changes in the air passages. When a person has emphysema the walls of the air sacs within the lungs, called alveoli, break down and over-inflate. The oxygen and carbon dioxide gas exchange that occurs in the lungs is slowed down. This person will experience chronic cough, shortness of breath, and ongoing lung infections. It is possible in extreme cases of emphysema that the person will have severe difficulty breathing, especially exhaling. Emphysema is known to lead to COPD

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, caused by a build-up of fluid in the lung's tiny air sacs. This means that less oxygen is being delivered to the blood. Resulting in an enormous strain on the heart and lungs. Pneumonia usually strikes people who are ill or elderly . It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The lung infection can be caused by several agents, including bacteria, virus, fungus, and parasites. Pneumonia symptoms include coughing, sputum, chest pain, shaking chills, and fever. A small cold or flu may be your first symptom. 

Pneumothorax is a collapsed lung. This happens when air collects in the space between the lung and the chest wall. The more air on the outside of the lung, the greater the risk. If the pressure on the outside is greater than the pressure on the inside it can result in fatality.

Pneumothorax may be a result from a puncture due to surgery, biopsy or other medical procedures. A gunshot or knife wound are also causes. A lung can rupture during exercise or coughing, this is the most sudden form of pneumothorax. Collapsed lung is a common problem in premature infants. These infants may have rapid, grunting breathing and bluish color. Adult signs of collapsed lung are sudden, sharp chest pain, uneven chest wall movement, shortness in breath, and blue colored lips and fingernails. In severe cases the person may have a very weak yet rapid pulse, pale skin, bulging neck veins, and a hard time breathing.  A minor rupture may cause no symptoms at all.

Pulmonary Embolism
Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in a lung artery by a blood clot.  About 2% of cases are fatal do to the blood supply to a large part of the lung being cut off. Blood clots in the lungs often begin with clots in the legs. You are more likely to have clots after surgery, stroke, long term bed rest or inactivity.

Symptoms of clots in the lungs include a sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood, or a low fever. A person with a large clot can pass out, appear blue in color, and have bulging neck veins. Most clots resolve with 10 to 14 days. Oxygen therapy and blood thinners will help prevent further blood clots.
**Extreme cases may require emergency surgery.

Sleep Apnea - Infants
Sleep Apnea occurs when normal breathing stops during sleep. If it happens to infants it can be fatal. Premature babies have a higher risk. As the baby reaches their original due date, the risk goes down. Apnea often occurs in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, which refers to unexplained death. Possible causes include:

  1. immature breathing control in the brain

  2. bleeding in the brain during delivery

  3. exposure to drugs or poisons

  4. a blocked airway, for example by a relaxed tongue

  5. a birth defect

  6. low blood sugar.

The hospital staff often notice sleep apnea soon after birth. Sometimes an extended hospital stay is required. Ways to prevent sleep apnea in high risk infants include:

  1. laying the baby flat on their back or on their sides

  2. keeping the neck slightly extended

  3. drugs similar to asthma drugs

  4. oxygen therapy

Snoring and Sleep Apnea - Adults
20% of adults have a sleep disorder known as "obstructive sleep apnea". The muscles at the back of the roof of the mouth relax and sag during sleep, this causes snoring. "Apnea" came from the Greek word "without air". Snoring is interrupted with pauses in breathing, then loud gasps, when the loud snoring resumes. Most sleep apnea sufferers are overweight, middle-aged men. Loud chronic snoring is the first sign of obstructive sleep apnea. This will also disrupt the sleep of the snorer's partner.

Sleep apnea will effect the daytime performance of the suffer

  1. daytime fatigue

  2. difficulty concentrating

  3. anxiety, irritability, or depression

  4. greater potential for falling asleep while driving

  5. cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke.

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