The incidence and prevalence of respiratory diseases and also in women are rising all over the world. (Photo: Pixabay)
The main function of the respiratory system is to deliver oxygen from the air which is essential for survival and to remove carbon dioxide which is produced by metabolism. We breathe daily 12 - 16 times a minute or approximately 11000 litres of air in a day which can get affected if we are suffering from pulmonary diseases. The incidence and prevalence of respiratory diseases and also in women are rising all over the world. We need to pay attention to even mild symptoms as they could be the first signs of lung disease like asthma, pneumonia, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive lung disease, lung fibrosis, obstructive sleep apnoea and lung cancer. We can achieve a faster diagnosis, and initiate early appropriate treatment by recognising the early warning symptoms and signs. This prevents the disease from becoming irreversible and also prevents early disability and death. Anyone who experiences any of the following warning symptoms needs to consult a pulmonologist at the earliest. The quicker detection of lung diseases could help in finding a cure and help in preventing morbidity and mortality due to respiratory diseases.
Warning Symptoms and Signs
Chronic cough: The presence of a cough lasting for more than two weeks is the most common and important early respiratory symptom indicating the presence of an underlying disease process which should not be ignored. It could be dry or may be associated with mucus production.
Breathlessness: Shortness of breath during exercise worsening over time to appear even during rest or which can vary also over time is a sure warning symptom. The breathing which is laboured should not be presumed because of ageing and needs evaluation with appropriate lung function tests.
Chronic sputum production: Mucus, also called phlegm is produced in the airways due to chronic irritation or inflammation of the breathing tract. If there is constant clearing of your throat with white or yellow sputum being coughed out you require further evaluation of the cause.
Wheezing: Noisy breathing or whistling sounds occur due to the narrowing or spasm of the breathing tubes producing musical sounds on auscultation. It indicates diseases like asthma, COPD which mainly affect the breathing tubes.
Haemoptysis or coughing, spitting out blood: The blood in your sputum could come via a cough or spontaneously. It could be coming from your upper or lower respiratory tract and could be in small streaks or massive amounts. The colour could be red, pink or become brown over a period of time. Usually can occur in tuberculosis or lung cancer.
Chest pain: Pain which gets worse when you breathe or cough. It could be one-sided or bilateral and usually indicates inflammation of the lining of the lungs warrants early intervention.
Recurrent sneezing, runny nose or blockade, nasal itching, nocturnal cough, recurrent sore throats are symptoms of allergic diseases.
Snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, memory loss, near-miss accidents while driving, irritability, and early morning headache are symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea.
Fever and loss of weight within a few months or failure to gain weight in children could also be manifestations of respiratory disease.
This article is authored by DR Padma Sundaram, MD, DNB, Consultant Pulmonologist, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru