Difficulty Breathing? There’s More At Play

Respiratory conditions affect people of all ages, causing millions of illnesses and deaths in the United States (US). Some forms of respiratory disease are contagious and spread from person to person. Others are caused by an underlying disease or infection and can be cured with treatment. Many of these diseases can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle and taking the proper medications. However, patients can go for years unaware of respiratory illness. Some symptoms, like shortness of breath, go unchecked, requiring emergency respiratory treatment later.

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Types of respiratory diseases

Asthma is the most common respiratory disease globally. In the US alone, over 4 million children have asthma, and more than 25 million people have the disease at any given time. Asthma is an inflammatory disease that affects the airways in the lungs and causes difficulty breathing. Another common respiratory disease is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), characterized by a long-term inflammatory response of the airways. COPD results in obstructive airflow and breathing difficulties. Other conditions range from bronchitis and pneumonia to cystic fibrosis and emphysema.

Give me a sign

The signs and symptoms of many respiratory conditions are similar across the board. These include cough, difficulty breathing, chest pain, headaches, and fever. These symptoms can come and go, but some people experience constant fatigue and shortness of breath. Both shortness of breath and fatigue are signs that the lungs are not processing oxygen efficiently. Other common symptoms include wheezing, chills, and discolored mucus. Treatment depends on the specific disease and may combine medication, oxygen therapy, or surgery.

Time to see a doctor?

Pay close attention to breathing and fitness levels during the simplest of tasks. If there is shortness of breath while resting or after a simple activity, see a doctor to rule out underlying conditions. Accompanying symptoms like excessive and persistent coughing can signify serious medical concerns. Seek care immediately if there is bloody or green mucus, difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest pain, or fever.

Testing, testing

The doctor will conduct a physical examination to check for fluid in the lungs. Some doctors also order tests to determine the underlying cause, like an x-ray, CT scan, sputum culture, or blood tests. In some cases, allergy tests, lung function tests, or an endoscopy may be necessary. If these tests reveal nothing more serious than a common cold or flu, over-the-counter medications can help. Respiratory treatments for severe issues like asthma, COPD, or other lung diseases will be necessary. Respiratory therapy combines medicine, medical devices, and other techniques to treat chronic respiratory illnesses.

Respiratory treatments

Among the most common respiratory treatments are bronchodilators, steroids, antibiotics, and inhalers. A bronchodilator relaxes the muscles around the airways and increases airflow. Steroids help relieve symptoms of inflammation and help prevent the worsening of some conditions, like asthma. Antibiotics may be needed to fight the illness if a virus is present. In some cases, the doctor may also recommend taking antibiotics and respiratory treatment to prevent an infection from developing. Inhalers are handheld devices that deliver medications in mist form to the respiratory tract. These devices help treat COPD and asthma. Inhalers are suitable for the prevention and treatment of these chronic conditions.

Breathe easy with respiratory treatment

Anyone can have a cold, flu, or respiratory virus. In some cases, the body’s immune system and medication can be enough to solve the problem. In other cases, the occasional shortness of breath is just a mild reminder from the body to rest. However, if symptoms worsen and start to affect quality of life, don’t delay. Seek immediate medical attention to avoid the condition getting worse. In some cases respiratory illnesses could be life-threatening. Trust that a visit to the doctor can be a life-saving decision.