Diseases of the lungs

The lungs suffer from many diseases, all of which are serious and life threatening. Some have no satisfactory cure and some need prolonged treatments. Listed below are the various diseases that affect the lungs:

Pulmonary fibrosis is more of an occupational disease. This is the effect of constant exposure to coal, asbestos or silica particles. In this, the normal lung tissue is replaced with fibrous tissue. The lung loses it elasticity and capacity to breath.

Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary condition in which the secretory cells of lungs and various glands get dehydrated. It is caused by an abnormal transport protein which leads to a decreased chloride ion travel out of cells and consequential sodium ions and water. When the cell walls dry up the mucus becomes more viscous, and the cilia cannot move them. They accumulate and cause restrictions for air flow. For some still not completely understood reasons, this encourages infection. The inevitable cough can cause large scale rupture of the alveoli leading to pneumothorax and lung collapse. In olden days, this was the major cause for infantile mortality. Research is opening new avenues including genetic engineering techniques.

Lung cancer is still is the leading cancer deaths in the US in both genders and all most all are smokers. Lung cancer is the uncontrolled division of the epithelial cells of the respiratory tract lining (malignant hyperplasia). Since the entire blood passes through the lung the chances of lung cancer migrating to other parts of the body are extremely high. The reverse is also equally true. Symptoms can take years to develop and by the time symptoms are noticed the cancer is well advanced. Lung cancers are mainly of two types, small cell carcinoma and non-small cell carcinomas. Other type of cancers also affect the lungs. Persistent cough, sputum production and blockage of airways are the symptoms.

Nervous system failures can cause respiratory disorders. One of the very common causes of sudden death of infants in the age group of 2 weeks to a year is sudden stoppage of respiration in sleep. This is known as ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’. The exact cause is controversial though lack of development of the respiratory center is suspected. While no cure has been found yet, the only thing that can be done is to place at risk babies on monitor which will sound an alarm when the baby stops breathing so that immediate medical aid be given.

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