Types of Chest and Lung Conditions

Affecting millions of people throughout the country, there are three main types of chest and lung diseases:

Airway diseases: These diseases affect the tubes (airways) that carry oxygen and other gases into and out of the lungs. These diseases usually cause a narrowing or blockage of the airways. They include asthma, emphysema, bronchiectasis and chronic bronchitis. People with airway diseases sometimes characterize the feeling as "trying to breathe out through a straw."

Lung tissue diseases:
These diseases affect the structure of the lung tissue. Scarring or inflammation of the tissue makes the lungs unable to expand fully ("restrictive lung disease"). This makes it difficult for the lungs to breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis are examples of lung tissue diseases.

Lung circulation diseases:
These diseases affect the blood vessels in the lungs. They are caused by clotting, scarring or inflammation of the blood vessels. They affect the ability of the lungs to take up oxygen and to release carbon dioxide. These diseases may also affect heart function.

The most common lung and chest diseases include:
  • Asthma
  • Atelectasis – the collapse of part or (much less commonly) all of a lung
  • Bronchitis
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Emphysema
  • Lung cancer
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pneumothorax – an abnormal collection of air or gas in the pleural space separating the lung from the chest wall which may interfere with normal breathing
  • Pulmonary embolus – a blood clot in a vein