Chronic lung disease is a condition that affects premature babies, and infants who receive mechanical respiratory support with high oxygenation in neonatal period. The following article provides information on its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Also known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), chronic lung disease is a medical condition that affects infants. In most cases, children outgrow this problem, and have fewer long-term health problems. However, in some cases, this condition can progress to a serious medical disorder that requires intensive medical care.
This condition does not occur at birth, but is a result of premature delivery and to some extent respiratory problems that may occur after birth. The condition is characterized by damaged tissues in the lungs of the infant, that may cause breathing problems. Since premature babies are born with underdeveloped lungs, this condition affects them to a larger extent. In the United States, about 5000 – 10000 cases of BPD occur every year.
How Infants Contract BPD
Chronic lung disease is a fairly common condition in premature babies. Babies born before 26 weeks of gestational age, and who weigh less than 2.2 pounds, have increased chances of being affected by this condition. The premature baby’s lungs may not be fully developed, which leaves the baby vulnerable to infections, inflammation, and fluid accumulation in the lungs.
These babies require the help of mechanical ventilators for breathing. Although, this treatment is necessary, overtime its use tends to cause injury to the delicate tissues of lungs.
Other causes include:
- Patent ductus arteriosus wherein ductus arteriosus fails to close at birth (Ductus arteriosus, which is a blood vessel in a fetus that connects the pulmonary artery directly to the ascending aorta, normally closes at birth.)
- Fluid buildup in lungs
- Pneumonia, and other chronic lung infections
- Malnutrition (particularly deficiency of vitamin A)
Symptoms are prominent and may appear as early as 3 days after birth. The common symptoms include:
- Grunting or rapid breathing
- Wheezing, which is a high-pitched sound while breathing
- Tiring quickly while feeding
- Flaring of nostrils while breathing
- Dusky or blue color appearance of skin, which might be more prominent around the lips or nail beds
- Increased coughing
- Sinking of belly while breathing (The skin of the baby might appear to be getting pulled in between the ribs with each breath.)
Some possible complications which may arise due to this disorder include blood infection, infection in the respiratory tract, pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in lungs), and respiratory distress.
The aim of the treatment is to help the newborn breathe more easily. This reduces the stress on the newborn’s body, while his lungs get more time to develop and heal on their own. Usually, the treatment is initiated at the hospital, and then continued at home with the help of a doctor.
Most babies are able to outgrow the problems associated with this lung disease. However, parents have to ensure that the child is getting all the required nutrients for his/her healthy development, so that there are no complications in the future.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.