What are the Different Types of Respiratory Problems?

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  • Written By: Erin Oxendine
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2020
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Respiratory problems can cause symptoms such as breathing difficulty and chest pain. If left untreated, these conditions can even cause death in severe cases. There are many different respiratory problems, ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Restrictive lung disease is one of the respiratory problems that affect the lungs by decreasing lung volume. This disease causes the lungs to lose elasticity, so that a patient cannot expand the lungs to get a deep breath. Different types of restrictive lung diseases include asbestosis and pulmonary fibrosis.

Another one of the different types of respiratory problems is asthma, which causes shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. Asthma is found in both children and adults and symptoms can interfere with work and school activities. Triggers such as dust, pet dander and extreme cold weather can make asthma episodes more frequent. Other people may have occupational asthma caused by exposure to chemicals or toxins in their work environment.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one type of lung disease that does not have a good prognosis. People who have COPD sometimes complain of excessive amounts of mucus, tightness in the chest and breathing issues. Some of the causes of COPD include cigarette smoke, chemical fumes and pollution. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Patients who have COPD often have to file for disability because the disease generally tends to get worse over time.

There are also other respiratory problems caused by health conditions such as pneumonia and influenza. These respiratory illnesses are typically short-term and go away when the person no longer has the virus. Other medical factors, including tumors and obesity, can also make it difficult for a person to breathe and cause chest pain. Different types of lung cancer, such as lymphoma, result in damage to the lungs, air sacs and windpipe.

Treatment of respiratory problems varies depending on the type of respiratory illness the patient has. A doctor will evaluate the individual to determine what kind of condition is present and get a complete medical history. During an examination, the physician will analyze the person's oxygen levels and use a stethoscope to listen to the person’s airways and lungs. If the doctor detects wheezing or any other abnormalities, he may recommend an x-ray or CAT scan.

Medication prescribed for respiratory illnesses consists of inhalers, antibiotics and steroids. Doctors often suggest chemotherapy for patients who have lung cancer. For severe cases of COPD and restrictive lung disease, the person may need to have a portable oxygen tank and mask. Doctors advise smokers with respiratory problems to quit smoking.


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