Common Disorders of the Respiratory System

Common Disorders of the Respiratory System | Dr. Ali Ghahary

With this year’s wildfire season being one of the worst that British Columbia has seen, it’s no surprise that there is an increase in respiratory-related illness – especially among children and seniors. To make matters worse, anyone who has a pre-existing respiratory-related illness will also find their symptoms may be exacerbated by the wildfire smoke. Pulmonary diseases can range from mild to severe and can even be life threatening if you’re not getting proper care. Many of these conditions will develop in childhood, while some respiratory-related illnesses do not develop until later in life.

Below is a look at some of the most common problems associated with the respiratory system, as well as tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary to help you relieve symptoms.

ASTHMA
One of the most (if not the most) common respiratory-related illnesses, asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the bronchi, caused by things such as allergens and other irritating substances. These irritants cause the lining in the trachea and bronchial tubes to become swollen, and sensitive tissues become aggravated. As a result, these tissues will then try to create mucus in effort to trap the aggravating irritants, which can result in wheezing as well as coughing.

COPD
COPD, also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a condition that consists of two other correlating diseases: bronchitis and emphysema. These conditions obstruct airflow, which gets progressively worse as time goes on. Smoking is responsible for as many as 90% of COPD cases, though it’s possible for non-smokers to develop COPD as well, as it can also be caused by things like air pollution and occupational pollutants. If you are a smoker with COPD, Dr. Ali Ghahary strongly recommends quitting, and shares some tips on smoking cessation here. Aside from quitting smoking, patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease will also require medications known as bronchodilators. Bronchodilators work by dilating the airways as well as decrease airway inflammation. Pulmonary rehabilitation n may also be beneficial.

BRONCHITIS AND EMPHYSEMA
As mentioned, bronchitis and emphysema often correlate with COPD. However, they can also develop on their own. It’s not uncommon for someone with a common cold to also develop bronchitis. When you have bronchitis, the bronchial passages mucous membranes become inflamed, resulting in a hacking, phlegmy cough. Other symptoms of bronchitis include fever and chills, as well as chest pain and shortness of breath. Typically, bronchitis will last for a few weeks, though it’s not uncommon for an acute flare-up to last as long as 6 weeks. Using an inhaled bronchodilator as well as getting plenty of rest can help relieve symptoms. Emphysema is more of a chronic condition as it’s a progressive disease of the lungs where tissues that support the shape and function of the lungs become destroyed. Common symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing, and some individuals with emphysema may also find it difficult to exercise due to decreased air intake. Similar to bronchitis and COPD, patients with emphysema can also benefit from the use of a bronchodilator, steroids, and oxygen therapy.