Lungs and Respiratory System

What are the Respiratory Diseases? The Facts and FAQs of Respiratory Diseases in India

Last updated on October 20th, 2022 at 07:57 am

When we are healthy, we take our breathing for granted, never fully appreciating that our lungs are essential organs for life. But when our lung health is impaired, we realise that nothing else but our breathing really matters. That is the painful reality for those suffering from lung disease, a condition that affects people of all ages in every corner of the world. Lung diseases kill millions and cause suffering to millions more. Threats to our lung health are everywhere, and they start at an early age when we are most vulnerable. Fortunately, many of these threats are avoidable and their consequences treatable. By acting now, we can save ourselves and many others.

What is the Respiratory Disease?

Respiratory disease is a type of disease that affects the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system. Also referred as lung disorder and pulmonary disease. Respiratory diseases may be caused by infection, by smoking tobacco, or by breathing in secondhand tobacco smoke, radon, asbestos, or other forms of air pollution. Respiratory diseases include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia, and lung cancer.

What causes respiratory diseases?

  • Chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a form of COPD emphasized by a chronic cough. Usually people cough up sputum (mucus from the lungs), especially in the morning.
  • Cystic Fibrosis/Bronchiectasis. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic respiratory disease caused by a defective gene that creates thick and sticky mucus that clogs up tubes and passageways. This mucus causes repeat, and dangerous, lung infections, as well as obstructions in the pancreas that prevent important enzymes from breaking down nutrients for the body.
  • Pneumonia. Pneumonia is a common lung disease caused by an infection in the air sacs in the lungs. The infections can be bacterial, viral, or fungal. Most people can recover in one to three weeks, but for certain people, pneumonia can be extremely serious and even life-threatening.
  • Pleural Effusion. Pleural effusion is a collection of fluid between the lung and the chest wall in what’s called the pleural space.

What are the 8 respiratory diseases?

  1. Asthma.
  2. Collapse of part or all of the lung (pneumothorax or atelectasis)
  3. Swelling and inflammation in the key passages (bronchial tubes) that carry air to the lungs (bronchitis)
  4. COPD.
  5. Lung cancer.
  6. Lung infection (pneumonia)
  7. Abnormal buildup of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema)
  8. Blocked lung artery (pulmonary embolus)
What is the acute respiratory disease?

Condition in which fluid collects in the air sacs of the lungs, depriving organs of oxygen. Acute respiratory disease is also referred as ARDS or Acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) can occur in those who are critically ill or who have significant injuries. It is often fatal; the risk increasing with age and severity of illness. People with ARDS have severe shortness of breath and often cannot breathe on their own without support from a ventilator. Treatment includes oxygen, fluid management, and medication.

What is the chronic respiratory disease?

Chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) affect the airways and other structures of the lungs. Some of the most common are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, occupational lung diseases, and pulmonary hypertension. Besides tobacco smoke, other risk factors include air pollution, occupational chemicals and dusts, and frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood. CRDs are not curable, however, various forms of treatment that help open the air passages and improve shortness of breath can help control symptoms and improve daily life for people living with these conditions.

What is the severe acute respiratory syndrome?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome, also known with the name SARS. SARS is a new strain of a flu that comes on fast. It leads to a high fever, a severe cough and an atypical pneumonia with inflammation of the lung tissue. The cause of this illness is a new type of virus. It leads to a severe lung infiltration that physicians can detect with chest X-rays.

The medical profession knew about cases similar to SARS for several decades under the name of “atypical viral pneumonia”. Most viruses lead to a laryngotracheitis, affecting only the lining of the upper airways like the trachea and the voice box. However, SARS is not like this.

How does chronic respiratory disease spread?

There are many different forms and causes of chronic respiratory disease. Most of them are not contagious. They don’t spread. For example, the most common cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking.

What is the difference between acute and chronic respiratory failure?

To put this as simply as possible, acute means something that comes on rapidly or quickly. They usually show signs almost immediately. They require urgent or short-term treatment or care. Examples are acute onset of malaria, acute respiratory distress because of an allergic reaction, exposure to maybe a toxin, a broken bone.
Chronic means something that has been going on for 6 months to a year. For instance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney failure. Chronic respiratory diseases include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc. These can lead to respiratory failure.

What is a chronic respiratory disease risk factor?

Chronic means long-term, respiratory means affecting lungs, and risk factor means something that will make the condition happen. For example, smoking is a risk factor that can cause chronic respiratory disease. An example of a chronic respiratory disease is COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder).

How does lung disease affect the respiratory system?

Lung disease can happen when there are problems in any part of this system. Your windpipe (trachea) branches into tubes called bronchi, which become smaller tubes throughout your lungs. Diseases that can affect these airways include asthma. Your airways are constantly inflamed and may spasm, causing wheezing and shortness of breath.

Which respiratory disease is caused by bacteria?

Bacterial Diseases of the Respiratory System

  • Strep throat. The common strep throat is because of a group of betahemolytic streptococcus known as Streptococcus pyogenes.
  • Scarlet fever is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, the same organism that causes strep throat.
  • Diphtheria is caused by a club-shaped, gram-positive rod called corynebacterium diphtheriae.
  • Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear accompanied by earache. Numerous bacteria may cause this problem, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Pertussis (whooping cough). Pertussis is caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Bordetella pertussis.
  • Tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, an acid-fast rod.
  • Tuberculosis is accompanied by the formation of tubercles, which are nodules on the lung tissue.
  • Mycoplasmal pneumonia is caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a species of mycoplasma.
  • Legionnaires disease, or legionellosis, was first recognized in 1976 when an outbreak occurred among American Legion members attending a convention in Philadelphia. The causative agent is a Gram-negative rod called Legionella pneumophila.
  • Psittacosis is caused by a species of chlamydia called chlamydia psittaci.
  • Chlamydial pneumonia is a recently recognized infection because of a species of chlamydia called chlamydia pneumoniae.
  • Q fever is because of a rickettsia known as Coxiella burnetii.

Surprising Facts of Respiratory Diseases

The respiratory disease causes an immense health burden. It is estimated that worldwide 235 million people suffer from asthma, over 200 million people have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 65 million endure moderate-to-severe COPD, 1–6% of the adult population (over 100 million people) experience sleep-disordered breathing, 9.6 million people develop tuberculosis (TB) annually, millions live with Pulmonary Hypertension and over 50 million people struggle with occupational lung diseases, totalling over 1 billion people suffering from chronic respiratory conditions. At least 2 billion people are exposed to the toxic effects of biomass fuel consumption, 1 billion are exposed to outdoor air pollution and 1 billion are exposed to tobacco smoke. Each year, 4 million people die prematurely from chronic respiratory disease.

Respiratory Diseases in India

The scenario in India is equally worrisome. Some of the Indian cities are currently featured among the most polluted cities in the world, and we are seeing the ill effects of it. In Assam, cigarette smoking is very much prevalent and rising pollution is leading to many respiratory diseases.

Early Symptoms of Respiratory Diseases

When we talk about the symptoms of respiratory diseases; cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and hemoptysis (blood in the sputum) are the predominant symptoms. The cough may present for a long time along with expectoration and sometimes hemoptysis. The presence of blood in the sputum is an ominous finding and the patient should be investigated properly. Asthma patients usually present with a cough with expectoration along with easy fatigability may have a seasonal variation. COPD patients are present with cough with expectoration and easy fatigability, which are gradually progressive unless properly treated. Tuberculosis is a very common disease and patients usually present with cough, expectoration, hemoptysis, weight loss, and a myriad of other symptoms.

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is currently the second most common cancer in both men and women. Cigarette smoking is the predominant cause of lung cancer. In non-smokers, it may develop because of radon exposure, air pollution, and asbestos exposure, etc. Lung cancer patients are usually present with cough, hemoptysis, weight loss, accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity, etc. The prognosis is usually grave if the patients are in the late stage of their disease.

How to Diagnose Respiratory Diseases?

If any patient is having above symptoms, then they should visit a pulmonologist. Many of these patients need investigations like chest X-ray, CT scan, bronchoscopy, pleural biopsies, polysomnography (for patients with sleep disorders) and many other sophisticated tests.

General practitioners get a lot of cases of respiratory diseases in their day to day practice. When a patient is suffering from COPD with frequent exacerbation, severe asthma, ILD, radiologically suspicious of tuberculosis but sputum is negative for tuberculosis, non-resolving pneumonia then these cases should be referred to a pulmonologist. The latter two conditions will need bronchoscopy for further evaluation and other advanced tests.

How to Prevent Respiratory Diseases?

The most important cause of respiratory diseases around the world is cigarette smoking. So cessation of smoking is extremely important. Air pollution is also a significant problem in today’s world, so the use of a face mask is also strongly recommended. In some patients, an asthma attack may be triggered by eating some specific foods or by exposure to cold. For this reason, avoidance of these situations is suggested for those patients.


To conclude, respiratory diseases cause serious problems in society and effort from all doctor community and society is needed to reduce the challenges posed by these diseases.

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