8 Types of Respiratory Diseases & Causes

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Most Common Types of Respiratory Disease & Their Causes

Respiratory diseases are illnesses of the lungs. In respiratory diseases, the functioning of the lungs gets reduced due to various reasons such as blockage of airways, a buildup of fluids, damage in the structure, inflammation etc. 

Respiratory diseases are rising at an alarming rate in India. With deteriorating air quality in most of the large cities in India, The rate of respiratory diseases is going to be much worse. India accounts for a quarter of tuberculosis cases in the whole world. Even though the government has done a lot to reduce this number, it will take a lot more to eliminate it.

Most Common Types of Respiratory Disease
Most Common Types of Respiratory Disease

India is currently in a developing stage and is growing rapidly. With growth comes increased production, consumption, and a rise in pollution. The biggest problem that India is facing is continuing this growth without compromising the environment.

Respiratory diseases are mostly caused by environmental, genetic and lifestyle-related factors. The most common reasons for respiratory diseases today are pollution and smoking.

In this article, we will discuss the 8 most common types of respiratory diseases and how they are caused.

Types of Respiratory Diseases

1) Asthma

Asthma 8 Types of Respiratory Diseases

Asthma is a respiratory disease in which the airways of the lungs become inflamed or blocked. The airways are the tubes that carry air through your lungs. Asthma is a chronic disease that can cause wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightening etc. All these symptoms can occur multiple times a day which is why asthma patients carry an inhaler with them at all times to relieve wheezing and shortness of breath.

In Asthma the airways become narrow or are blocked by mucus which causes breathing problems in the patients.

Asthma is a disease that can’t be cured, it can only be managed through medication and lifestyle changes. Asthma patients need to consult their doctors on a regular basis in order to manage their symptoms properly. People who are suffering from asthma need to be careful while doing any physical activity or exercise as this can be quite unpredictable for them.

According to studies, India has around 30 million asthma patients. It is one of the leading causes of mortality in India, and this rate is not slowing down any slower.

Causes of Asthma

The exact cause of asthma is yet unknown to us but what is known is that Asthma may be genetic because it tends to run in families and can be passed down through generations. Environmental factors and allergies can also play a role in causing asthma.

Allergic asthma can be caused by dust, mould, pollen etc while non-allergic asthma can be caused by pollution, smoking, second-hand smoke, inhalation of chemical smells etc.

2) Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis 8 Types of Respiratory Diseases
Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disorder that is inherited through generations. It is a life-threatening disease which affects the lungs and the digestive system majorly. It can also harm other organs present in the human body. Cystic fibrosis makes the mucus in the body very thick which makes it hard for the patient to breathe and digest food.

Cystic fibrosis is diagnosed at an early age because clear signs of it can be easily seen in kids.

There is no cure for Cystic Fibrosis. It can only be managed or reduced to a certain level through medication, regular checkups, treatment and a proper lifestyle.

In India, Cases of Cystic Fibrosis used to be very rare, almost non-existent. But in the last decade, more cases are coming to light. Though, the numbers are still very low. Cystic fibrosis is more common among Caucasians.

Symptoms of cystic fibrosis are- cough with thick mucus or blood, continuous coughing, constipation, shortness of breath, poor childhood growth, wheezing etc.

Causes of Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that is passed down to children from their parents. A child must have 2 copies of the defective Cystic Fibrosis gene, one from each parent, in order to be diagnosed with the disease. A child who only has one copy of the gene does not get the disease but is still a carrier of the gene which can be further passed down.

Due to this defective gene, sticky mucus gets accumulated inside the body which can block airways and other organs.

Cystic fibrosis can be diagnosed by conducting a sweat test, genetic test or screening newborn babies.

3) Lung cancer

Lung cancer 8 Types of Respiratory Diseases
Lung cancer

Lung cancer is a cancer of the lungs in which some lung cells grow uncontrollably and disrupt the functioning of the lungs. Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world, ranked third behind breast cancer and prostate cancer in total numbers. With a mortality rate of 18 per cent, lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the world.

There are two types of lung cancer- 1) small cell lung cancer and 2) non-small cell lung cancer. The basic difference between the two is in the size of the cells. In small-cell lung cancer, the cancerous cells appear small and round under a microscope while in non-small-cell lung cancer, the cancer cells appear larger. Non-small cell lung cancer is the more common of the two, accounting for 80 to 85 per cent of total lung cancer cases worldwide.

Symptoms of lung cancer are- shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing that does not go away, coughing blood, constant fatigue, sudden weight loss, chest pain, etc.

Causes of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is mostly diagnosed at an adult age. The most common causes of lung cancers are-

  • Smoking
  • Second-hand smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Exposure to Radon
  • Inhaling hazardous chemicals
  • A family history of lung cancer

Smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer. Smokers have 20 to 25 times more chances of being diagnosed with lung cancer than non-smokers. Quitting smoking is necessary if someone wants to reduce their risk of lung cancer. Even quitting smoking after being diagnosed can be beneficial since it can reduce the chances of further complications.

 4) Tuberculosis 

Tuberculosis  8 Types of Respiratory Diseases

Tuberculosis is a lung disease that is infectious in nature. It is a bacterial disease caused by a bacteria known as Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. The bacteria mostly attacks the lungs but it can also attack other organs in the body such as the kidney, brain and liver. People who have a good immune system might have the TB bacteria but not the disease. Hence, TB can be classified into two different types-

  1. Latent tuberculosis or latent TB infection- tuberculosis that is present in the system but is dormant. This means that the carrier does not get sick with tuberculosis disease.
  2. Tuberculosis Disease- the bacteria infect the organs and the carrier is affected by the disease. Tuberculosis disease can be life-threatening for the carrier.

Symptoms of Tuberculosis are- Fatigue, fever, chest pain, constant coughing for multiple weeks, coughing of blood, night sweats, chills etc

Tuberculosis is very common in India, accounting for more than 25 per cent of the total tuberculosis cases in the world. It can be classified as an epidemic in India. The Indian government has taken the issue of Tuberculosis very seriously. It provides treatment and awareness to everyone in the country.

Causes of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium Tuberculosis which attacks the lungs or other organs in the human body. The bacteria can then be spread from one person to another through inhalation of droplets that are expelled by coughing or sneezing.TB is only spread by inhaling the bacteria directly. It is not spread by touching someone with TB or sharing food and other things with someone diagnosed with TB. 

Once TB enters the lung through inhalation, it starts growing there and then moves to other parts of the body through blood.

5) Bronchitis 

Bronchitis  8 Types of Respiratory Diseases

Bronchitis is a kind of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) along with Emphysema. It is a chronic disease in which the bronchi in the lungs become inflamed. Bronchi are the tubes in the lungs which carry air. Bronchitis causes breathing problems because the bronchi get filled with excess mucus.

There are two types of Bronchitis- 1) Chronic Bronchitis and 2) Acute Bronchitis. Chronic Bronchitis is a long-term disease while acute bronchitis is a short-term inflammation of the bronchi. Only chronic bronchitis is considered a chronic inflammatory lung disease (COPD). Acute bronchitis is caused by an infection that will be healed in a few days or weeks while chronic bronchitis is caused by continuous irritation to the bronchi due to smoking or inhaling pollution.

Chronic bronchitis cannot be cured, it can only be managed by the patient. It is important for patients to stop cigarette smoking if they have chronic bronchitis because it can make their condition even worse.

Symptoms of Bronchitis include- Frequent coughing, mucus in cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and fever.

Causes of bronchitis

The biggest cause of bronchitis is smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke. It can also be caused by air pollution, toxic gases and other pollutants. A person who has Bronchitis can then spread it to others by the transfer of germs from coughing, sneezing and contaminating objects. Bronchitis spreads like a viral or bacterial infection from one person to the other.

Bronchitis is diagnosed by a medical professional through various tests. Your medical professional may also conduct CT scans and X-rays to determine the infection.

6) Pneumonia

Pneumonia 8 Types of Respiratory Diseases

In Pneumonia, the lungs become inflamed due to a bacterial or viral infection. Pneumonia can also be caused by fungal or mycoplasma infection but they are not as common as bacterial and viral infections. Pneumonia may cause one or both lungs to be filled with pus or fluids. In Pneumonia, the air sacs are filled with fluids and can become solid. This causes breathing problems and may also sometimes result in the death of the diagnosed person.

Pneumonia used to be a very deadly disease with no certain cure till a few decades ago, However, constant Research and Development in medicine have made it more curable today. Pneumonia can be cured without any complications through antibiotics, medications, rest and lots of fluids. Pneumonia vaccines are also available for preventing Pneumonia.

Pneumonia is still very dangerous for older people because their bodies are unable to fight off the infection because of a weak immune system.

Symptoms of Pneumonia are- Cough with phlegm, fever, sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, chills fatigue and confusion.

Causes of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is mostly caused by viral and bacterial infections. However, it can also be caused by fungal infections. One virus that can cause Pneumonia is the Coronavirus, which created quite a scare among people in the last 2 years. Pneumonia caused by coronavirus can also lead to the death of the infected person. Influenza and flu also caused viral pneumonia in people.

Pneumonia can also be contagious and cause infection to others through coughing, sneezing and contaminated objects.

7) Emphysema

Emphysema 8 Types of Respiratory Diseases

Emphysema is a kind of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that causes difficulty in breathing. In Emphysema, air sacs in the lungs become enlarged and lose their elasticity. Emphysema is characterised by large air-filled spaces instead of multiple small ones. The spaces are caused by the breakdown of walls of air sacs, leading to the creation of large air-filled spaces. Emphysema causes breathing problems and reduces the supply of oxygen to the blood. It can also lead to other problems due to the inefficient utilisation of oxygen in the body.

Emphysema is a non-curable disease. But it can be controlled by various treatments and medications. Emphysema patients need to reduce their exposure to smoke and other air pollutants in order to manage the disease properly.

Symptoms of Emphysema are- coughing constantly, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.

Causes of Emphysema

The major cause of Emphysema is smoking. Smokers are most likely to be affected by this disease. Emphysema is very rare in non-smokers, hence it is a preventable disease. Other causes of Emphysema are air pollution, inhalation of chemical fumes, dust, etc.

If someone wants to manage emphysema then it is very important to quit smoking. Further complications can significantly be reduced just by doing this.

8) Pleural effusion

Pleural effusion 8 Types of Respiratory Diseases
Pleural effusion

Pleural effusion is a respiratory disease in which fluid gets accumulated in the space between your lungs and your chest. Pleural space refers to the space between the lining of the lungs and the chest. Pleural effusion is also known as “water in the lungs”.

Pleural effusion can cause breathing problems when too much fluid builds up in the space. However, it can also have no serious effect on the affected person if the fluid build-up is greater than normal but still moderate.

There are two types of Pleural effusion- 1) Transudative Pleural effusion and 2) Exudative effusion. Transudative pleural effusion is the leakage of fluid in the pleural space due to heart failure or cirrhosis. Exudative pleural effusion is a more serious form of pleural effusion in which the pleural space becomes inflamed due to lung infections or tumours.

Pleural effusions are serious and life-threatening but it is also curable. A short operation can be done to drain the fluid from the body. However, To permanently cure Pleural effusion, determining the root cause is the most important because it can return even after curing.

Symptoms of Pleural effusion are- Sharp pain in the chest, breathing difficulty, coughing, fever, and chills.

Causes of Pleural effusion

Pleural effusion can happen due to increased pressure on the blood vessels of various organs causing them to leak fluids. Pleural effusion is caused as a result of other diseases such as heart failure, cirrhosis, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, kidney disease, Covid 19 and many more. These diseases cause pressure, infection and inflammation in the organs, causing them to excrete excess fluids.

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