What is Lung Disease?

Phil Shepley

The lungs are an important part of the human body and are responsible for providing oxygen to the bloodstream while removing carbon dioxide. Lung disease can be classified as any of a number of disorders that cause the lungs to no longer function normally. These illnesses and their severity can range all the way from those that are benign, causing no harm, to those that can be crippling or even lead to death.

The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs.
The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs.

There are three main categories of lung disease. The first of these is obstructive lung disease, which happens when airflow that is exhaled from the lungs is decreased because the airways have been either blocked or decreased in size. The main symptom is shortness of breath, and examples include asthma and chronic bronchitis. One the main causes of this type (and many more) is smoking, which can also be one of its main preventive measures when the smoker quits.

A human respiratory system.
A human respiratory system.

Restrictive lung disease is associated with a decrease in the capacity of the volume of air that the lungs are able to contain. The lungs are quite elastic, and these types of diseases can occur when this elasticity decreases. There can also be issues related to the expansion of the chest wall that cause these illnesses. In both of these cases, it becomes difficult for the lungs to deliver the amount of oxygen to the body that it needs. Common examples are interstitial lung disease and extrapulmonary restrictive lung disease.

Lung diseases can range in their severity from benign to life-threatening.
Lung diseases can range in their severity from benign to life-threatening.

The final category of lung disease is caused when there are defects in the tissues of the air sacs of the lungs, and this decreases the amount of oxygen that the lungs are able to deliver to the bloodstream. In most, it is a combination of these three categories that cause the lungs to function improperly, for example in emphysema. Other common types include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis.

Smoking is a main cause of lung disease.
Smoking is a main cause of lung disease.

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Discussion Comments


I've had a severe cough for more than 45 days even though my treatment was taken properly. It's not settled, so far.


How can I tell the difference between lung disease and a regular chest cold?


I have been a smoker for about 10 years now. What kind of risk am I at for lung disease? If I stop smoking now, or soon, will my risk go down or is this something that I need to worry about for the rest of my life. And just to reiterate an obvious point for those who might not know: don't start smoking.


Take her to a doctor ASAP and try to get her too lose weight for her benefit. Also if she smokes get her to quit exercise and wear a mask when working with chemicals. sincerely; Yasmin. P.s wish her all the luck.


I just found out my mom has pulmonary lung disease. she also has sleep apnea. I knew that but not the other. She's never said how bad anything is until now. She's been having really bad breathing at night. Dad's afraid he might wake up to find she has died. What can I do to help her? Sincerely, tina b.

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