7 Warning Signs of Lung Disease
Currently, nearly 37 million Americans live with lung conditions such as emphysema, asthma, or chronic bronchitis. This is the equivalent of roughly 15% of adults in our country. While the most common cause of lung disease is by far tobacco smoking, there are other factors that contribute to the development of lung disease, such as occupational exposure to hazardous agents, air pollution in the area where the person lives, and recurrent lower respiratory infections during childhood.
The majority of people who get a diagnosis of lung disease are at least 40, but due to the variety of causes for lung disease, it can occur earlier or later in life. Because lung disease has become so prevalent, it is extremely important to be aware of the warning signs, as the sooner you receive treatment, the better your prognosis and the lower your risk of health complications will be. These are seven hallmarks of lung disease you should pay attention to if you experience and for which you should seek medical attention.
1. A Persistent Cough
If you have been coughing for 8 weeks or longer, your cough is chronic, which might be a sign of lung disease. Usually, the cough that stems from more common respiratory issues, such as a cold or the flu, disappears by itself within a shorter time. Consequently, if you have been struggling with a chronic cough, it is high time you visited your doctor to undergo a series of tests and exams. While you might not have a serious lung disease, it is better to be on the safe side and get this symptom checked out, particularly if it is the only symptom you are experiencing.
2. Chest Pain
Having unexplained chest pain that lasts for a month or longer is another warning sign of lung disease. It should be a cause of concern, especially if the pain worsens with breathing, coughing, or laughing. Chest pain could be a symptom of a blood clot in one of your lungs, a collapsed lung, pleurisy, or pulmonary hypertension. You may experience chest pain anywhere from your neck to your upper abdomen, so it might be difficult to locate it precisely. Therefore, you need to visit your doctor to get referred to a pulmonologist if they consider your chest pain could be related to lung disease.
This symptom refers to noisy breathing when you inhale and exhale. It is often a sign that a foreign body is blocking your airways or causing shrinkage. While the most common causes of wheezing are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it can be a sign of lung cancer as well, which is why we urge you to get it checked as soon as possible. If lung cancer is found during the early stages, your prognosis will be considerably better, and you will have more treatment options. Furthermore, treatment will be more effective if lung cancer has not advanced.
4. Chronic Mucus Production
Also known as sputum or phlegm, mucus is released by the airways as a defense against infections or irritants. If you have been noticing excess mucus production for a month or longer, this could indicate the presence of lung disease. Producing too much mucus is usually a sign of chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, asthma, or nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease. People who struggle with this unusual symptom should visit their doctor as soon as they can, as untreated lung disease can take a heavy toll on their quality of life.
5. Shortness of Breath
Experiencing shortness of breath that persists after working out or doing strenuous physical activity is not normal, which is why this might be another indicator of lung disease. People who smoke, particularly heavy smokers, are usually affected by shortness of breath. Even so, whether you are a smoker or not, we encourage you to have your lungs examined by a medical specialist if you have shortness of breath, as struggling with it is alarming. If you are a smoker with severe shortness of breath, you have all the more reasons to visit a doctor.
6. Coughing Up Blood
This is perhaps the scariest symptom of all, as it indicates that there is definitely something wrong with your lungs. However, while coughing up blood is a symptom of lung cancer, there are so many other lung conditions that can be the culprit behind it, such as a blood clot in one of your lungs, tuberculosis, pneumonia, pulmonary aspiration, taking blood-thinning medication, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, vasculitis, injury to the arteries of your lungs, or having dealt with a violent cough that irritated your throat.
Lastly, fatigue, a symptom that accompanies a ridiculous number of health problems, can also be a warning sign of lung disease, especially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Because it reduces airflow to your lungs, making breathing difficult, the disease also reduces the oxygen supply your whole body receives. Therefore, without enough oxygen, you will feel constantly tired. Nevertheless, fatigue can also be a sign of lung cancer, particularly if the disease has advanced, which is why it is always a wise idea to visit your doctor if you have recently noticed a decrease in your energy levels.
In conclusion, lung disease is responsible for numerous symptoms that patients often ignore or overlook. There are also numerous types of lung disease, and their symptoms are usually very similar, which is why many people are initially misdiagnosed. This can delay receiving treatment significantly. Consequently, if you notice one or more of these symptoms, please get medical attention, as the sooner a potential lung condition is found, the greater your chances of leading a normal life with it will be.