List of Respiratory Diseases
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Published on September 12th 2017 by under

There are hundreds of different diseases and conditions that can affect the respiratory system, ranging from common cold and flu to pneumonia and COPD. Many of these are chronic in nature, as they develop gradually over time, becoming life threatening in some cases.

A study published by The Forum of International Respiratory Societies shows hundreds of millions of people around the world suffering from one or more types of chronic respiratory disorders, while there are over four million deaths every year, caused by such diseases. However, with proper treatment, and follow-up care, these conditions can be cured or kept in check.

List of Diseases of the Respiratory System

Upper Respiratory Diseases

Common Short-Term Curable Conditions

  • Common cold or upper respiratory infection (URI)
  • Croup (common respiratory disease in infants and small children)
  • Influenza or flu (contagious viral disease)
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Diphtheria

Chronic Diseases

  • Sinusitis
  • Stridor (e.g. Congenital Laryngeal Stridor or Laryngomalacia)
  • Epiglottitis
  • Whooping Cough
  • Pharyngitis
  • Tonsillitis

Acute Disorder

  • Acute upper respiratory infections

Lower Respiratory Tract Diseases

Short-Term Conditions and Complications

  • Pneumonia (chronic and acute forms also present)
  • Pleural effusion
  • Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)

Chronic Disorders

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases or COPD (chronic bronchitis, emphysema, bronchiolitis, non-reversible asthma, and specific types of bronchiectasis) [10]
  • Interstitial lung disease (some forms of ILD are short lived, while those like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and nonspecific interstitial pneumonitis are chronic) [11]
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Mesothelioma (rare cancer affecting the pleura)
  • Chronic pulmonary edema
  • Obesity hypoventilation syndrome
  • Neuromuscular lung disorders (e.g. myasthenia gravis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • Pneumoconiosis (group of occupational diseases like black lung disease and asbestosis)
  • Pulmonary MAC infection/ MAC lung disease
  • Pediatric reactive airway disease

Acute Diseases

  • Acute bronchitis
  • Acute pneumonia
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Pulmonary hypertension (including pulmonary arterial hypertension and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension)
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Acute pulmonary edema
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome

Causes and Risk Factors for Respiratory Tract Diseases

Each different condition has its own causative factor, and the same disorder may result from a number of factors too. The common causes may include viral/bacterial infections, smoking tobacco, allergic reaction to something, inhaling substances harmful for the lungs (coal, asbestos) over long periods [1], congenital malformation of one or more parts of the respiratory tract, abnormal autoimmune response [2], genetic/hereditary factors, and air pollution. Among these, the viral and bacterial infections account for most of the common diseases, including influenza, pneumonia, and tonsillitis [3]. Respiratory infections are usually common among elderly people and those with a weak immune system [9].

Pulmonary diseases are a common complication in pregnancy as well, with studies showing it to be a significant factor responsible for maternal death after childbirth.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Diseases Affecting the Respiratory System

Following are the common symptoms present in most respiratory diseases [4]:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain and tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Chronic cough
  • Coughing up mucus

Preventive Measures for Respiratory Conditions

  • Quitting smoking as both active and passive smoking are a major risk factor for a number of breathing and respiratory tract disorders, including asthma, COPD, and lung cancer [5].
  • Washing hands with antibacterial soap, especially before eating or touching food.
  • Not touching your face or nose with unclean hands as this is one of the primary ways for communicable diseases to spread.
  • Avoiding going near someone with influenza or any similar bacterial or viral condition as these germs are often airborne, meaning one can get infected by inhaling contaminated air [6].
  • Getting flu vaccines, especially during flu seasons [7]. Few other conditions like diphtheria may also be prevented with vaccines [8].
  • Following a nutritious diet and drinking plenty of water as they help to strengthen your immunity and flush out toxins.

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