Respiratory issues are incredibly common in the US. Statistics by healthypeople.gov estimate that there is currently a surplus of 25 million Americans suffering with asthma, while around 14.8 million adults have been diagnosed with COPD.
Without treatment, respiratory issues can become serious, fast. Conditions like COPD can be fatal when left untreated, and need to be monitored closely with tools provided by the likes of Sensoronics. Even an asthma attack can cause death, with one study by Asthma UK finding that asthma attacks kill 3 people every day.
With that in mind, knowing the causes of respiratory issues can help you to more actively avoid them. While some lung and breathing conditions are unavoidable, in many cases, you’ll be able to take steps to ensure your lungs stay healthy late into life.
Here are the top causes of respiratory issues reported today:
Certain respiratory issues can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection like the flu. Whooping cough, for example, is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium. It results in violent, uncontrollable coughing and breathing difficulty.
Asthma, which is characterised by inflamed airways, is sometimes caused by infection, as is acute bronchitis, an infection of the airways.
2. Smoking tobacco/breathing in secondhand smoke
Smoking is one of the most common causes of COPD, a lung disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD makes it difficult to breathe by damaging the lung sacs over time and resulting in a long-term cough with mucus.
Even breathing in secondhand smoke is enough to lead to COPD. A new study found that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke during childhood increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) death in adulthood.
3. Air pollution
Even though it’s often invisible to us, air pollution is another cause of respiratory issues. When we breathe in polluted air on a regular basis, it can lead to a difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and chest pain.
Air pollution is also thought to cause asthma, or trigger asthma attacks, as well as promote the progression of chronic respiratory illnesses like lung cancer or COPD.
4. Chemicals like asbestos
Breathing in harsh chemicals at home or in the workplace can cause respiratory problems if adequate protection isn’t used.
Asbestos, for example, can often cause a chronic lung disease called asbestosis when large amounts of the chemical are breathed in. The disease is characterised by lung tissue scarring and shortness of breath, and symptoms often don’t show up for years after exposure.
Some allergens, like pet fur, pollen, dust mites and strong odours, can cause respiratory issues that make it difficult to breathe and result in wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
One of the most common respiratory issue caused by allergens is a type of asthma known as allergic asthma. This occurs when the airways swell when a person experiences an allergic reaction to something they’ve inhaled. Allergens can also worsen COPD symptoms, and can increase the chances of COPD in people with asthma.