Other Common Lung Diseases

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The most common cause is smoking – most people with this disease have a combination of bronchitis and emphysema and are smokers or former smokers. Breathing in other kinds of lung irritants – such as pollution, dust or chemicals – over a long period of time can also cause or contribute to COPD. It develops slowly and may be many years before you notice any symptoms. Most of the time, COPD is diagnosed in middle-aged or older people. COPD can not be cured, but it can be managed. If you think you may have COPD, contact to your doctor.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis, more commonly known as TB, is a highly contagious, infectious disease that most often affects the lungs, but can also attack other parts of the body. It is more common in people with immune system problems than in the general population. Symptoms can include a cough lasting more than two weeks, weight loss, fatigue, night sweats and/or fever. Diagnosis may be made by a skin test, which if positive should be followed by a chest X-ray to determine the status – active or dormant – of the infection. Treatment of active tuberculosis is mandatory by law in the US, and should be available at no cost to the patient through the public health system. It involves a course of antibiotics and vitamins that lasts about six months. It is important to finish the entire treatment, both to prevent reoccurrence and to prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis. Most patients with tuberculosis do not need to be quarantined, but it is sometimes necessary. If you think you might have tuberculosis, contact your doctor.


Influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. Most healthy people will recover from the flu on their own within one to two weeks, but for the very young, the elderly and people with prior medical conditions, it can lead to serious or even fatal complications such as pneumonia. Symptoms of the flu usually come on suddenly. Generally, a person will have a high fever for about three days. Respiratory symptoms, which include sore throat, cough and runny or stuffy nose, usually last an additional three or four days. Headaches, fatigue, weakness, muscle aches and loss of appetite are other common symptoms of the flu. A person may also continue to have a dry, hacking cough for up to 10 days after the other symptoms are gone. For a common case of the flu, the best treatment is to rest and drink plenty of fluids. The best way to prevent the flu is to receive a flu vaccine every year. You can also prevent the spread of the flu by practicing good personal hygiene, including washing your hands often, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and refraining from sharing drinks or utensils with others. Also, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze to prevent spreading the virus to others if you are infected.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is a contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory system. It is characterized by fits of coughing followed by a noisy “whooping” indrawn breath. The illness is most likely to affect young children, but sometimes appears in teenagers and adults, which appears first as coughing spasms followed by a dry cough lasting up to eight weeks. Whooping cough is treated with antibiotic medications and an immunization can provide protection from the infection. If you think you might have whooping cough, contact your doctor.


Pneumonia is a very common illness caused by a serious infection or inflammation of the lungs that can be caused by more than 30 different germs or organisms. The infection prevents air from getting deep into the lungs, making it difficult for oxygen to get to the blood stream. Without the right amount of oxygen in the blood stream, blood cells cannot work properly and as a result, pneumonia can have serious impact on the entire body. Suffering from pneumonia often feels like having the flu with coughing, fever, chest pain and shortness of breath and the symptoms can vary from mild to severe and even cause death. A person might also experience chills, lack of energy, weakness, quick breathing, headache, muscleaches, blueness around the lips and nails, and confusion. Healthy individuals can normally fight off these viruses or bacteria, but if theperson is not healthy or has a weak immune system, pneumonia can develop. Older adults and the elderly are at greater risk of contracting the infection. There are many treatments for pneumonia including antibiotics, cough medicine to help relieve symptoms, pain relievers to east chest pain, bed rest, and lots of fluids. Getting the flu shot can help prevent pneumonia, as well as a pneumonia vaccine that is often recommended for high risk individuals. If you think you have pneumonia, contact your doctor.

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