Respiratory Illnesses and Diseases



Overview

Respiratory illnesses and diseases are defined as diseases that affect the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system. Respiratory illnesses and diseases include, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia, and lung cancer. There are numerous causes of respiratory illnesses and diseases, including infection, smoking tobacco, and breathing in air pollution. There are no cures to respiratory illnesses and diseases, but rather various treatment options that help reduce symptoms and increase a person’s quality of life with the disease. The two most common respiratory diseases are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Asthma causes a person’s airways to get inflamed and narrow, making it hard to breathe. It is a long-term disease that varies in severity. Symptoms include reoccurring attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. As there is no cure for asthma, treatment options are available. Asthma is treated with inhalers to manage symptoms. Medications, such as corticosteroids are inhaled and control the disease to prevent death. COPD is a group of diseases that cause obstructions in lung airflow and breathing related problems. Symptoms of COPD include breathlessness, chronic coughing, and excessive sputum production. The most common COPD diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Treatments for COPD include stopping smoking, inhalers, medication, and surgery/lung transplant.


Millions of people struggle with respiratory illnesses and diseases. If you experience difficulty breathing it is important to see a doctor right away. If you have a respiratory disease, detection and treatment options are available to help you live a long and healthy life.


Key Facts by WHO (World Health Organization)

  • Asthma is a major noncommunicable disease (NCD), affecting both children and adults.

  • Inflammation and narrowing of the small airways in the lungs cause asthma symptoms, which can be any combination of cough, wheeze, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

  • Asthma affected an estimated 262 million people in 2019 and caused 461000 deaths.

  • Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children.

  • Inhaled medication can control asthma symptoms and allow people with asthma to lead a normal, active life.

  • Avoiding asthma triggers can also help to reduce asthma symptoms.

  • Most asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries, where under-diagnosis and under-treatment is a challenge.

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide, causing 3.23 million deaths in 2019.

  • Over 80% of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).

  • COPD causes persistent and progressive respiratory symptoms, including difficulty in breathing, cough and/or phlegm production.

  • COPD results from long-term exposure to harmful gases and particles combined with individual factors, including events which influence lung growth in childhood and genetics.

  • Environmental exposure to tobacco smoke, indoor air pollution, and occupational dusts, fumes, and chemicals are important risk factors for COPD.

  • Early diagnosis and treatment, including smoking cessation support, is needed to slow the progression of symptoms and reduce flare-ups.

  • Air pollution is one of the greatest environmental risks to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.

  • The lower the levels of air pollution, the better the cardiovascular and respiratory health of the population will be, both long- and short-term.

  • Policies and investments supporting cleaner transport, energy-efficient homes, power generation, industry and better municipal waste management would reduce key sources of outdoor air pollution.

  • In addition to outdoor air pollution, indoor smoke is a serious health risk for some 2.6 billion people who cook and heat their homes with biomass, kerosene fuels and coal.

  • Around 2.6 billion people cook using polluting open fires or simple stoves fueled by kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.

  • Each year, close to 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to household air pollution from inefficient cooking practices using polluting stoves paired with solid fuels and kerosene.

  • Household air pollution causes noncommunicable diseases including stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

  • Close to half of deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5 years of age are caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.

References

1. “Chronic Respiratory Diseases.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/chronic-respiratory-diseases#tab=tab_1.

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