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Diagnosing Common Pulmonary Conditions: Knowing When To Seek Help

We’ve all had that bout of shortness of breath after a deep cough or the wheezing associated with allergy season. But when do those common symptoms of minor respiratory discomfort become a more serious concern?

Symptoms of Serious Pulmonary Issues

Symptoms of pulmonary discomfort can manifest in a few ways, but the most common include shortness of breath, wheezing, and difficulty catching your breath. During allergy season, these symptoms can be exasperated by the presence of pollen and other seasonal irritants.

While you may think your symptoms are only present while you’re awake, you may also be experiencing breathing difficulties while you’re asleep in the form of snoring. This is a common symptom of sleep apnea and requires the assistance of a pulmonary specialist.

Causes of Pulmonary Symptoms

Generally, wheezing and shortness of breath can be associated with minor pulmonary conditions including seasonal influenza, minor colds, or more serious conditions like bronchitis and pneumonia. But these are all temporary conditions that can be easily dealt with the care of a physician.

Other pulmonary symptoms are caused by more serious conditions that will require the assistance of a pulmonologist. Wheezing and shortness of breath are can be caused by Asthma, a serious breathing condition that, if left uncontrolled, can result in death after an attack. Now, difficulty catching your breath and chronic coughing can be a symptom of underlying lung disease like chronic bronchitis, COPD, emphysema or lung cancer.

Diagnosing Serious Pulmonary Disease

The only way to know if your breathing problems are caused by more serious conditions is to visit a licensed pulmonary specialist. This medical professional specializes in understanding how your oxygen delivery works internally and can identify when symptoms are a major concern.

In the meantime, if you have concerns about your pulmonary health, smoking cessation is a priority. Smoking is a major cause of cancer and emphysema. While smoking cessation cannot reverse pulmonary disease, it will help to reduce your symptoms until you receive treatment.

Medical Testing for COPD, Emphysema & Lung Cancer

A pulmonologist can order necessary tests to identify the cause of your symptoms, like chest X-rays, which are a standard procedure.

Diagnosing emphysema and COPD starts by conducting Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT), these tests measure your airflow through a serious of breathing maneuvers. Additionally, a High-Resolution Computed Tomography (HRCT) scan can be ordered to visually assess the condition of your lungs.

Furthermore, an arterial blood gasses analysis and sputum examination are ordered to analyze the health of your oxygen delivery through your vascular system and determine the cause of your symptoms respectively. Lung cancer tests include blood analysis and CT scans to reveal lesions on your lungs.

Treatment for Pulmonary Disease

Treatment for serious pulmonary diseases includes chemotherapy and radiation for lung cancer and oxygen therapy for COPD and emphysema.

Additionally, antibiotics and bronchodilator medications can be inhaled as aerosol sprays or taken orally to assist in the relaxation of air passages. These medications also work for chronic asthma sufferers.

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