Chronic Lung Disease: Symptoms, Causes, and Types

Chronic Lung Disease: What It Is and How To Prevent It

Chronic lung disease is a condition that affects the lungs as well as other components of the respiratory system. It normally progresses slowly and may worsen over time.

You might think of lung cancer when you hear of chronic lung disease, but there are many distinct varieties. These lung illnesses might impair your airways, lung tissues, or blood circulation in and out of your lungs. Chronic lung diseases, excluding lung cancer, were responsible for more than 150,000 fatalities in the United States in 2020 and about 4 million worldwide in 2017.

Some of the most common types of chronic lung diseases are: 

  • Asthma: Asthma is among the most widespread types of lung disease that last for a long time. When it happens, your lungs swell up and get smaller, making it harder to breathe. 
  • Emphysema: Emphysema hurts your lungs' air sacs. When the air sacs are healthy, they are strong and bendy. Emphysema makes them weaker, and some of them eventually burst.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long-term lung disease in which your lungs become inflamed. This causes your body to make too much mucus and your lungs' lining to thicken. 
  • Chronic Bronchitis: Chronic bronchitis is worse than acute bronchitis because it doesn't go away. It makes the bronchial tubes in your lungs swell up, which makes more mucus.
  • Bronchiectasis: Bronchiectasis is an illness of the bronchi, which are the main airways that bring air into the lungs. Most of the time, an infection or lung injury causes the walls of the bronchi to get thicker.  
  • Chronic Pneumonia: Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria. The air sacs in the lungs get inflamed and may fill with fluid, which stops oxygen from getting to the lungs.
  • Lung Cancer: Lung cancer is a condition in which cells in the lungs grow in a way that isn't normal, forming lumps over time. As the tumours grow and multiply, they may make it harder for your lungs to do their work. 

Symptoms of Chronic Lung Disease

You might not initially experience any symptoms. But if the condition worsens, you can notice the following chronic lung disease symptoms:

  • Difficulty taking deep breaths
  • Cough with mucus that persists for a long period
  • Shortness of breath performing daily activities (like walking or using the stairs)
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
  • Chest tightness
  • Lack of energy
  • Swelling in the lower body (ankles, feet, or legs)

Causes of Chronic Lung Disease

Chronic lung diseases are typically caused by smoking, air pollution, and infection. Genetics also has a significant impact on lung illnesses. Some other common causes of chronic lung diseases are:

  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Workplace dust and fumes

Treatment of Chronic Lung Disease

Although there is no known cure for chronic lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), treatment can lessen symptoms, stop further deterioration, and enhance everyday living. Inhaled medications (bronchodilators) help widen the airways and relieve symptoms during bouts of dyspnea induced by airway narrowing.

Generally, the symptoms can be treated medically; however, the most effective remedy for chronic lung diseases in individuals who smoke tobacco is to quit smoking. This has the potential to delay the disease from progressing and reduce chronic lung disease-related fatalities. In some circumstances, people may benefit from inhaled corticosteroid medications.

When Should I See a Doctor?

Call your provider as soon as you notice any chronic lung disease symptoms or indications; don't wait until your next checkup. Even if you don't feel sick, you should still report these symptoms right away. Additionally, always consult your healthcare practitioner before altering or stopping a prescription regimen.


Compared to some other illnesses, chronic lung diseases frequently have a clear aetiology, and a clear course of prevention, and there are techniques to limit the disease's progression. Although the majority of cases are directly caused by smoking, the best method to avoid developing chronic lung disease is to never smoke or to quit doing so right away.

If you've been a smoker for a long time, these basic words may not appear to be simple, particularly if you've attempted quitting previously. However, don't give up. Try finding a program that can assist you in permanently quitting smoking – it's your greatest chance to prevent lung damage.

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1. What are the 3 types of chronic lung disease?

Numerous lung illnesses, such as asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are examples of chronic lung diseases.

2. What are the signs and symptoms of chronic lung disease?

Some typical signs of chronic lung disease include worsening breathlessness, recurring chest infections, a chesty cough that produces phlegm and lasts for a long time, as well as persistent wheezing.

3. What causes lung diseases?

Lung diseases are mostly caused by people who smoke cigarettes. Radon gas, air pollution, and chemicals like uranium, and arsenic are also known to cause lung diseases.

4. How is chronic lung disease diagnosed?

Usually, a blood oxygen test is done to find out if a person has a lung disease. A device that looks like a peg is put on your finger to measure how much oxygen is in your blood.

5. What are the most serious lung diseases?

Asthma, COPD, lung cancer, and chronic bronchitis are some of the most serious lung diseases.

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