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Types of Lung Disease and How They Affect Respiration

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Feb 20, 2021

Types of Lung Disease and How They Affect Respiration

To understand the types of lung disease, we must first delve into the importance of respiration.

Respiration, or breathing, is an essential part of living. The body system responsible for breathing is the respiratory system. This system allows us to inhale air to process oxygen for our body and exhale carbon dioxide. 

The lungs serve as the major organ of the respiratory system. The lungs facilitate the exchange of gases and the respiratory system transports blood and oxygen. 

What happens then when complications arise in the system responsible for such a fundamental bodily function? There are a number of lung diseases. 

Lung-related complications are one of the most common medical conditions in the world. They can be affected by lifestyle choices such as smoking, infections caused by viruses and bacteria, as well as genetics.

Types of Lung Disease

The respiratory system has several parts with their respective functions and because of this, the complications that arise with performing said functions are often caused by diseases involving that particular part.


First, let’s consider the airways. The airways are divided into the upper (nose, nasopharynx up to the trachea) and lower airways (bronchus down to the lungs). The trachea further branches out into bronchi.

Complications that arise with regards to the airways impede breathing and are mostly chronic like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),  and its variants. 

types of lung disease

The types of COPD include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Infectious airway-related diseases are acute fibrosis, which is caused by a virus and cystic fibrosis, a genetic airway disease, that manifests from repeated lung infections.


Second, let’s take a look at the alveoli. The alveoli, or air sacs, make up most of the lung tissue by mass. These air sacs facilitate gas exchange and make it difficult to breathe so diseases like emphysema and other forms of COPD also affect the alveoli. 

Lung trauma or injury, which causes pulmonary edema or fluid leakage, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which can be brought by serious illnesses, and pneumonoconiosis, which is caused by the inhalation of something abrasive or can injure your lungs.

Pneumonia is brought about by alveoli infected by bacteria or viruses and if further exacerbated by a specific bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, turns into tuberculosis.

What are the Most Common Symptoms of Pneumonia?

Blood Vessels

Third, let’s look into the blood vessels. These blood vessels bring low oxygen blood from your heart into your lungs for oxygenation and back to your heart to be pumped throughout your body. 

Issues with clotting can bring pulmonary embolism (PE) and manifests with low blood oxygen that causes shortness of breath due to lowered blood pressure.

Pulmonary hypertension is brought about with the opposite which means there’s high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries.

Chest Wall

Fourth, let’s consider the chest wall. The chest wall is important in facilitating breathing because it’s made up with muscles that connect the ribs and allow for the lungs to have enough space to expand. 

Another muscle, called the diaphragm, also does the same thing at the bottom of your lungs. Having excess weight on your chest and belly make it hard for your chest wall to move and cause obesity and hyperventilation syndrome.

Contracting damage for the nerves that control your muscles causing them not to work can bring about different neuromuscular disorders that make it difficult to breathe like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and myasthenia gravis.

Lung Disease Symptoms

Since the lungs are responsible for respiration, breathing-related complications are likely to be indicative of lung disease.

  • These include shortness of breath or feeling like you’re not getting enough air as well as shortness of breath. A decreased ability to exercise could also be due to breathing problems since your body struggles to distribute oxygen to fatigued areas.
  • Coughing and wheezing are also symptoms of lung disease and possible viral or bacterial infection. Having coughs for prolonged periods of time could be a sign of chronic illness while coughing up blood or mucus could be a sign of deeper complications.
  • The chest could also indicate lung disease with having a tight feeling or pain while breathing.

Certain tests could be done to determine where the problem is exactly and be able to administer appropriate treatment. These tests include spirometry, bronchoprovocation, chest x-ray, or electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).

types of lung disease

Lung Disease Treatment

Lung disease treatments vary just as much as lung disease types vary. Different kinds of illnesses call for different kinds of treatment.

Chronic diseases, take asthma, for example, are not cured but rather treated. There are long-term control medicine to be able to mitigate the flares preemptively.

These include beta-agonists, corticosteroids, or leukotriene modifiers. On the other hand, there are also quick-relief medications (or rescue meds) for when these flares are occurring. Lifestyle changes are also in place for patients to avoid their triggers.

Cancer treatment is similar to most cancer treatment using radiation or chemotherapy alongside possible surgery and targeted therapy.

In dealing with lung damage, apparatus are usually used alongside inhaled steroids and antibiotics. Respirators, bronchodilators, and ventilators are some of these. Alternative methods like oxygen therapy, surgery, and pulmonary rehabilitation are

Preemptive vaccines are also available for most infectious diseases like flu and pneumonia. This helps boost herd immunity and lowers the risk for the community as a whole to contract these infections.

The lungs are one of the most important organs in the body and hopefully this article helped familiarize you with the different kinds of diseases, parts, and treatments to help you take better care of your lungs.

Learn more about Respiratory Health, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Feb 20, 2021

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