5 types of respiratory diseases

respiratory disease

Respiratory diseases are any of the diseases and disorders of the airways and the lungs that affect our breathing. Respiratory diseases may be caused by allergies, infections, genetic factors or pollution.

Common signs and symptoms

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
  • A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
  • Frequent respiratory infections

Types of respiratory diseases

1. Upper respiratory tract infections

Upper respiratory tract infections are illnesses caused by an acute infection which involves the upper respiratory tract including the nose, sinuses, pharynx or larynx.

This commonly includes nasal obstruction, sore throat, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, otitis media, and the common cold.

2. Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an infection of the main airways of the lungs (bronchi), causing them to become irritated and inflamed. The bronchi branch off on either side of your windpipe (trachea).

They lead to smaller and smaller airways inside your lungs, known as bronchioles.

Bronchitis can be described as being either:

  • Acute bronchitis – temporary inflammation of the airways, causing a cough and mucus production, lasting up to three weeks.
  • Chronic bronchitis – a daily productive cough that lasts for three months of the year and for at least two years in a row.

3. Respiratory distress syndrome

This is a breathing disorder that typically affects premature babies whose lungs are not fully developed.

In healthy infants, the alveoli—the small, air-exchanging sacs of the lungs—are coated by surfactant, which is a soap-like material produced in the lungs as the foetus matures in preparation for birth.

If premature newborns have not yet produced enough surfactant, they are unable to open their lungs fully to breathe. Surfactant helps the lungs fill with air and keeps the air sacs from deflating.

4. Respiratory failure

Respiratory failure is a condition in which not enough oxygen is transported from your lungs into your blood, or when your lungs can’t properly remove carbon dioxide from the blood.

Both of these problems—a low oxygen level and a high carbon dioxide level in the blood—can occur at the same time.

5. Cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition that causes excessively thick and sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. This causes severe damage to the respiratory systems as it leads to blockages within the lungs and airways.

This leads to repeated, serious lung infections that can damage your lungs.

It can also cause blocked tubes, or ducts, in the pancreas. As a result, the digestive enzymes from the pancreas can’t reach the small intestine, causing impaired absorption of fats and proteins. This can cause vitamin deficiency and malnutrition.

Cystic fibrosis mostly affects the lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses, and sex organs.


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