Chronic Lung Disease Doesn’t Have to Take Your Breath Away

Chronic Lung Disease (CLD) isn’t a single disease. It’s a tag used to describe a variety of illnesses, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema, all of which make it hard to breathe because air doesn’t flow easily out of your lungs.

Smoking, infections, and genetics are responsible for most lung diseases. And, while chronic lung disease cannot be cured, it can be managed, especially if you make key lifestyle changes.

  • If you smoke, stop smoking, and try to reduce overall exposure to smoke
  • Add exercise to your daily routine
  • Take medicines to reduce or relieve some symptoms

If you have CLD, the benefits of exercise will be even greater for you, but you should always ask your primary care physician what types of exercises will be best. A safe level of exercise will depend on your health and the stage of your disease. Even small amounts of exercise are better than none.

Aerobic activities like walking, water aerobics, dancing, and even gardening have proven beneficial for people with CLD. Start out slowly and watch for signs you’re doing too much. Clue: You’re pushing too hard if you can’t talk while you’re exercising. The solution is to simply sit down and rest for a while.

Gradually increase your exercise level over time. In addition to aerobic exercises, you might also consider strength training, especially exercises that focus on strengthening your abdominal muscles, which can help with breathing.

People with CLD have also benefited from learning relaxation and breathing techniques, and other measures to help control panic attacks, which can sometimes occur when people with CLD get anxious.

Safety Tips for Exercising

  • Don’t exercise outdoors when it is very cold, very hot, or very humid
  • Avoid exercises that require or encourage holding your breath
  • Don’t take hot/cold showers or sauna baths after you exercise
  • Don’t exercise when your disease is not under control, unless your doctor tells you it’s okay

Different Types of Lung Diseases

Lung diseases affecting the airways
Asthma: The airways are persistently inflamed, and may occasionally spasm, causing wheezing and shortness of breath. Allergies, infections, or pollution can trigger asthma’s symptoms.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Lung conditions defined by an inability to exhale normally, which causes difficulty breathing.

Chronic bronchitis: A form of COPD characterized by a chronic productive cough.

Emphysema: Lung damage allows air to be trapped in the lungs in this form of COPD. Difficulty blowing air out is its hallmark. (Emphysema also affects the air sacs.)

Cystic fibrosis: A genetic condition causing poor clearance of mucus from the bronchi. The accumulated mucus results in repeated lung infections.

Lung Diseases Affecting the Air Sacs (Alveoli)

Pneumonia: An infection of the alveoli, usually by bacteria.

Tuberculosis: A slowly progressive pneumonia caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Emphysema results from damage to the fragile connections between alveoli. Smoking is the usual cause. (Emphysema also affects the airways.)

Pulmonary edema: Fluid leaks out of the small blood vessels of the lung into the air sacs and the surrounding area. One form is caused by heart failure and back pressure in the lungs’ blood vessels; in another form, direct injury to the lung causes the leak of fluid.

Lung cancer has many forms and may develop in any part of the lungs. Most often this is in the main part of the lung, in or near the air sacs. The type, location, and spread of lung cancer determines the treatment options.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS): Severe, sudden injury to the lungs caused by a serious illness. Life support with mechanical ventilation is usually needed to survive until the lungs recover.

Pneumoconiosis: A category of conditions caused by the inhalation of a substance that injures the lungs. Examples include black lung disease from inhaled coal dust and asbestosis from inhaled asbestos dust.

Warning Signs
Chronic cough: A cough you’ve had for a month or longer is considered chronic. This is an important early symptom that tells you something is wrong with your respiratory system.

Shortness of breath: It’s not normal to experience shortness of breath that doesn’t go away after exercising, or that you have after little or no exertion. Labored or difficult breathing is also a warning sign.

Chronic mucus production: Mucus, also called sputum or phlegm, is produced by the airways as a defense against infections or irritants. If your mucus production has lasted a month or longer, this could indicate lung disease.

Wheezing: Noisy breathing or wheezing is a sign that something unusual is blocking your lungs’ airways or making them too narrow.

Coughing up blood: If you are coughing up blood, it may be coming from your lungs or upper respiratory tract. Wherever it’s coming from, it signals a health problem.

Chronic chest pain: Unexplained chest pain that lasts for a month or more—especially if it gets worse when you breathe in or cough—also is a warning sign.

Source: WebMD, American Lung Association