What is lung disease?

The lungs are an important part of the human body and are responsible for providing oxygen to the bloodstream while removing carbon dioxide. Lung disease can be classified as any of several disorders that cause the lungs to no longer function normally. These diseases and their severity can range from those that are benign, causing no harm, to those that can be disabling or even fatal.

There are three main categories of lung disease. The first of these is obstructive pulmonary disease, which occurs when the flow of air exhaled from the lungs decreases because the airways have become blocked or decreased in size. The main symptom is shortness of breath, and examples include asthma and chronic bronchitis. One of the main causes of this type (and many more) is smoking, which can also be one of its main preventive measures when the smoker quits.

Restrictive lung disease is associated with a decreased capacity for the volume of air that the lungs can hold. The lungs are quite elastic, and these types of diseases can occur when this elasticity decreases. There may also be problems related to the expansion of the chest wall that cause these diseases. In both cases, it becomes difficult for the lungs to deliver the amount of oxygen the body needs. Common examples are interstitial lung disease and extrapulmonary restrictive lung disease.

The final category of lung disease occurs when there are defects in the tissues of the lung's alveoli, and this decreases the amount of oxygen the lungs can carry into the bloodstream. In most, it is a combination of these three categories that causes the lungs to malfunction, for example in emphysema. Other common types include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, and sarcoidosis.

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