Respiratory problems: Causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention
If you can’t get enough air, your chest feels tight, or you feel like you’re suffocating, you might have a respiratory problem. This usually happens when you’re overweight or have just finished a strenuous activity. It can also happen if you’re in a very warm environment or at a high altitude. But, if you’re having trouble breathing for other reasons, it’s most likely an indication of a medical issue.
How does the respiratory organ work?
The lungs are one of the most important organs in the body. But without the help of other vital body parts, the lungs are unable to inhale and exhale air on their own. The windpipe, bronchi, bronchioles, and diaphragm operate together to supply the small sacs of your lung tissues with air.
It’s possible that any part of the respiratory system will be affected if you have a respiratory disorder. Infection, inflammation, trauma, or exposure to environmental elements may all have an impact on how you can breathe effectively. This is why respiratory therapists are such an essential part of the healthcare team.
What causes breathing problems?
Allergies, asthma, inflammation, and infection are just a few of the things that can make breathing difficult. With the right diagnosis and therapy, as well as a greater understanding of your condition, you can take control of your breathing problems.
Here are some of the common causes of feeling short of breath:
- Lung disorders, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Heart diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and heart failure
- Infection in the airways, such as croup, bronchitis, pneumonia, flu, and the common cold
- Anxiety or a panic attack
The following are other possible reasons for feeling short of breath:
- Allergic reactions
- Collapsing lungs
- A clot in one of the lung’s blood veins has caused a blockage (pulmonary embolism)
- High blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries (pulmonary hypertension)
- Some uncommon lung diseases (like COVID-19)
- Vocal cord dysfunction or VCD, causing the vocal cords to not open all the way
Below are possible reasons that may involve breathing difficulty as a symptom, complication, or side effect :
- Heart issues
- Lung cancer
Though most respiratory problems can be taken care of with daily maintenance and preventive care, flare-ups can happen at unexpected times.
Common respiratory problems
This is a long-term condition that causes temporary blockages and inflamed airways. Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightening of the chest are common asthma symptoms. Keep in mind that the sudden onset of these symptoms can lead to an asthma attack.
This is the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis is short-term, usually caused by a cold. Meanwhile, chronic bronchitis is more serious and requires specialized care.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
This refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It involves conditions like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and, in some cases, asthma.
This is an infection that involves inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs, causing them to fill with fluid. Main types include bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia, and mycoplasma pneumonia. Common symptoms of pneumonia consist of cough, fever, chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
What’s the treatment for respiratory problems?
The type of treatment you require is determined by how severe the condition is, how quickly it progresses, and what the status of your overall health is.
If you go to the doctor, you may be given the following tests:
- Blood tests
- Scans and x-rays
- Breathing tests
Possible treatment options include:
- Quitting smoking
- Taking medications
- Getting enough and appropriate exercise
- Undergoing physiotherapy
Respiratory disease prevention
Respiratory diseases are extremely widespread in the United States alone, with over 40 million of which are people with COPD and asthma. However, COVID-19 increased that number as several people experienced severe respiratory problems like pneumonia, but to an extent that it may require a ventilator. Respiratory therapists have worked tirelessly to make breathing easier for patients.
If we can prevent respiratory conditions from developing and progressing to a more severe form of disease, the number of patients will decrease and medical professionals won’t have to face such a huge problem.
The following are some tips to help protect yourself from respiratory illness:
- Avoid inhaling indoor and outdoor air pollutants, such as tobacco smoke, mold, insecticides, and more
- Avoid outdoor air pollution
- Quit smoking or get help to quit smoking
- Avoid close contact with people who have known respiratory illnesses
- Wear masks when in crowded areas
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water to avoid exposure to bacteria
- If you have asthma, keep your medications up to date and avoid possible triggers
- Get vaccinated against influenza, strep pneumonia, and COVID-19 which are all known to cause respiratory problems
How can urgent care help?
Urgent care clinics provide respiratory care and treatment in your own schedule. You can walk in to get seen or you can call to make an appointment first, whichever is most convenient for you. And because they’re open on extended hours, during weekends and holidays, you don’t have to wait or miss a day of work.
You can get treatment for asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other respiratory conditions. But if your symptoms seem life-threatening, call 911 for emergency medical care immediately.