<< Back to Lung Disease Resources
Types and Causes of Lung Diseases - Diseases Affecting Other Tissues
(JANUARY 2014) A number of diseases adversely affect lung function. Some impact the airways or lung tissues directly while others impede normal breathing by transforming structures around the lungs. Together, they represent some of the most common health conditions in the United States. Causes range from genetics and infections to environmental influences and smoking.
LUNG DISEASES AFFECTING OTHER TISSUES
Several types of tissues interact with the lungs as they transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide. These include blood vessels that pump blood into and through the lungs, a thin lining called the pleura that allows the lungs to slide across the inside of the chest cavity and the chest wall and diaphragm. Diseases related to these tissues that can affect lung function include:
Pulmonary Embolism (PE)
A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that causes a blockage in an artery within the lungs. It can result in sudden chest pain, shortness of breath and even coughing up blood. It can be life threatening without immediate treatment. In most cases, the clot begins in a vein in the leg that breaks off and makes it way to the lungs.
When the small arteries within the lungs narrow or become blocked, it raises blood pressure within the lungs. This causes shortness of breath and chest pain. It also forces the lower right chamber of the heart to work harder than it should. Eventually, this can cause the heart to fail. Numerous factors can contribute to pulmonary hypertension.
The pleura is a thin membrane that covers the lungs and the inside of the chest cavity. It effectively allows the lungs to comfortably slide across the inside of the chest cavity. With an effusion, excess fluid collects between the layers of the pleura and can impair breathing. Pleural effusions most commonly result from congestive heart failure, but other diseases can also trigger them.
A pneumothorax occurs when air leaks into the space between the lungs and the chest wall. The pressure causes one or both of the lungs to collapse. A pneumothorax may result from chest trauma, damage from other lung diseases or medical procedures. When necessary, doctors can insert a tube or needle into the cavity to release the air.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that primarily affects the pleura. It is both aggressive and deadly. Symptoms often include chest pain, shortness of breath, painful coughing and lumps under the skin of the chest. Mesothelioma tends to emerge several decades after exposure to asbestos.
Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS)
OHS is believed to result from excessive weight pressing against the chest wall. It makes it difficult to take deep breaths, causing a build up of too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen in the blood. This leads to patients experiencing headaches, feeling excessively tired on an ongoing basis and potentially experiencing depression.
Neuromuscular Disorders of the Lungs
Neuromuscular disorders of the lungs is a broad category for diseases that create reduced functionality or failures within the nerves and muscles that enable normal lung function. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and myasthenia gravis are examples.
People with serious ongoing medical conditions such as lung disease should always wear a medical alert bracelet to provide critical information to first responders in case of emergency.
Types and Causes of Lung Diseases – Diseases Affecting the Air Sacs (Alveoli)
Types and Causes of Lung Diseases – Diseases Affecting the Airways