You may think that cough you’ve had isn’t too big of a deal, but if just won’t go away, it could be the sign of a respiratory disease. Sometimes these seemingly innocuous breathing issues can actually be a symptom of something larger. In fact, respiratory diseases are incredibly common in the United States.
It’s important to understand what to look out for and when to see a doctor. Here are some common warning signs and respiratory diseases to be aware of, according to the American Lung Association.
Common Respiratory Disease Symptoms
There are several signs of respiratory disease to look out for. While some are more serious than others, each of these symptoms can be an indication that you might be suffering from a respiratory disease. Here are six common signs.
1. Difficulty Breathing
While it’s common to feel a shortness of breath during exercise, if it doesn’t go away—or is present when you aren’t exerting yourself—you should be concerned. Any difficulty breathing should be evaluated by a physician.
2. Stubborn Cough
If you’ve had a cough that hasn’t cleared up after a month or longer, it’s considered chronic. It might also be a sign of some kind of respiratory ailment. It’s important to talk with a doctor if you have a stubborn, chronic cough.
3. Breathing Noisily
If you are wheezing or breathing noisily, it could be an indication that your airways have become obstructed. It’s crucial to address this issue as soon as the first signs emerge.
4. Lingering Chest Pain
If you are having sudden and severe chest pain, you should consider going to the ER right away. However, chest pain can sometimes be mild and lingering. If it lasts for more than a month—and gets worse when you cough or take a deep breath—this is definitely something to tell your doctor about.
5. Chronic Mucus
Mucus is your body’s natural defense against infection and other irritants. If you’ve been coughing up phlegm or feeling drainage in your chest for more than a month, this could be a sign of a respiratory illness.
6. Coughing Up Blood
The blood that escapes in a cough may come from your lungs or respiratory tract. No matter the cause, coughing up blood is serious and you should see your doctor right away.
Common Respiratory Diseases
The respiratory symptoms listed above could be a sign of a number of respiratory diseases. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms but aren’t sure what illness you may have, a medical professional can help identify which one. Here is an overview of some of the most common respiratory diseases.
This chronic respiratory condition causes inflammation in the body’s airways and can make it difficult to breathe. While asthma usually begins during childhood, adults can be diagnosed at any time. Individuals who have asthma may need to use inhalers to help manage their symptoms.
This infection occurs in the air sacs of the lungs. While the recovery time is usually one to three weeks, pneumonia can be serious and even life-threatening. People over the age of 65 are encouraged to get a pneumonia vaccine.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, applies to several different respiratory diseases that cause difficulty breathing. This includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD can develop slowly over a number of years and is often mistaken for normal signs of aging. These symptoms should not be ignored as COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Lung Association. People who smoke have a higher risk of COPD.
Cancer can develop in any part of your lungs and can often take several years for symptoms to appear. Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer for both men and women.
If you are suffering from any respiratory disease symptoms, it’s imperative to speak to your doctor. Many respiratory diseases are treatable—but it’s important to catch them as early as possible.