Infection in the lungs affects its oxygen-carrying capacity and results in numerous diseases. The term chronic refers to a long-lasting or continuing disease. Constant cough, chest pain and difficulty in breathing are the major symptoms of lung infections. Symptoms can be sub-clinical or even acute enough to require intensive care.
Smoking and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are one of the most common reasons for causing respiratory tract infection. Lung infection can be caused due to the other diseases and disorders like those mentioned below. You will also find the causes and other symptoms of these conditions in detail.
Causes: Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The infection predominantly affects the lungs, but, sometimes, can also affect other organs like spine, kidney or bladder may also get affected. As it is a contagious disease, people living or working with TB patients are at a very high risk of contracting it. Besides, poor, homeless people, or those with weakened immune system and the elderly are also susceptible to the disease.
Symptoms: Chronic lung infection, long-lasting cough, with discolored or bloody sputum, weight loss, pain in chest while coughing or breathing are the symptoms of TB. Symptoms of tuberculosis take a long time to surface, and therefore, many times the symptoms are mistaken for that of cold or flu.
Preventive measures: To prevent TB, one must avoid close contact with TB patients. Also, avoid sharing personal items, like utensils and clothes of TB patients. There are medications available that kill the TB-causing bacteria in the body. One must complete the entire dose of antibiotics that are prescribed by the physician. Secondly, people must have a nutritious diet in order to improve immune system.
Causes: Bronchitis occurs when the air passages (bronchial tubes) between the trachea and the lungs, get inflamed or swollen. Smoke as well as industrial irritants like asbestos, coal, silica, pesticides, etc. may cause lung infections. People having a weak immune system contract the disease easily.
Symptoms: Excessive coughing (with mucus) and frequent respiratory infections like cold and flu, lung infection and wheezing are observed. Smokers as well as people who are continually exposed to air pollutants, are at a high risk of contracting bronchitis.
Preventive measures: Firstly, smoking must be stopped completely. People working in industries should wear masks and gloves. Balanced diet and regular exercises will improve the immune system and, hence, will help in the prevention of bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis should be immediately treated, as it increases the chances of lung cancer.
Causes: Asthma is a chronic disease that causes the air passages inflamed and swollen. Due to this inflammation, the person becomes sensitive to allergies. Though the exact cause of asthma is unknown, many environmental (dust, air pollutants) and chemical (smoke, gases) causes induce asthma. It may also be partially inherited.
Symptoms: Constant or intermittent coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing are the symptoms of asthma. Night-time coughing is also commonly experienced. Though anyone can contract asthma, it is commonly seen in children having a family history of asthma or who are exposed to tobacco smoke. Asthmatic people have acute attacks or episodes of asthma, when their air passages get narrowed. They cough a lot due to the increased production of mucus.
Preventive measures: As asthma is a chronic disease, preventive measures must be observed not only during asthma attacks, but at all times. Doctors prescribe medications depending on factors like the person's age, health, tolerance level, etc. The medications should be followed strictly. Asthmatic people should avoid visiting overcrowded or polluted places.
Causes: Pneumonia is an infectious disease in which pus fills up in the air sacs, which consequently causes difficulty in breathing. Pneumonia affects one or both the lungs. Variety of micro-organisms like virus (Influenza virus, RSV), bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae), parasites (Ascaris) and chemical toxins (gases or pesticides) can cause pneumonia. It can occur at any time of the year; but is prominently seen in winter.
Symptoms: Rapid breathing, persistent coughing, chest pain, lung infection, headache, vomiting, etc. are some of the common symptoms. A person may also have high fever with shaking chills. Persons having low immune system, like old people or children are more prone to pneumonia. Factors like HIV/AIDS, smoking, alcoholism and drugs addiction weaken the immune system, thus increasing the risk of pneumonia. Inhaling chemical toxins is also a possible cause of pneumonia.
Preventive measures: The best method to prevent pneumonia is to maintain hygiene. One must avoid using another person's towels, eating utensils or bottles. Hands must be washed, after coughing or sneezing. Avoid close contact with people suffering from influenza as this will prevent the virus from spreading. Children and older people must be vaccinated with the pneumococcal vaccine and the influenza (flu) vaccine. One should quit smoking completely.
SARS and whooping cough are other major diseases caused by lung infections. Chest X-rays, MRI or chest CT scan, lung biopsy, bronchoscopy, sputum and blood tests are undertaken to diagnose lung infections. Medications, and sometimes, intensive care may be advised to patients.
One must consult the doctor in order to get the condition treated effectively. Lastly, one must remember that, although medications and vaccinations are available, following a healthy lifestyle and diet can prevent lung infections. This article is meant only to provide information.