Pulmonary Function Disease - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Pulmonary function disease refers to conditions that can affect the function of your lungs:

There are many conditions in which the pulmonary function (function of the lungs) becomes compromised. Common diseases that affect the functioning of the lungs include:

  • Asthma

  • Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD)

  • Bronchiectasis

  • Interstitial Lung disease


Asthma is the constriction of your bronchioles that occurs due to the response or overactivity of your immune system, due to which you face difficulty in breathing. It is a chronic condition that mostly starts in childhood. Asthma may also affect your day-to-day activities. You may also face difficulty in doing physical exercise, walking, or even talking or eating food. 

The signs and symptoms of asthma are:


  • Cough especially at night, during or after exercise, or while laughing 

  • Difficulty breathing 

  • Whistling sounds from the chest known as wheezing 

  • Chest tightness 

  • Fatigue 

  • Anxiousness 

  • Panic and anxiety

Not everyone may have the same symptoms of asthma. Some people may only have a cough, while some may have wheezing and difficulty breathing. 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term used to refer to a combination of diseases that affect the lungs and cause airflow obstruction.

COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These two conditions usually co-exist and cause airflow obstruction. Unlike some diseases in which there is trouble getting air into the lungs, in COPD, air can’t be properly expelled out of the lungs, which can cause air trapping inside the lungs, which affects the gas exchange.

Tobacco smoking, exposure to different irritants such as Exhaust gas, cadmium, silica dust, coal dust, gold dust, cotton dust, etc, or a genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, can cause COPD.

The symptoms of COPD include:

  • Chronic cough

  • Cough with lots of mucus

  • Breathlessness, particularly on exertion

  • Wheezing 

  • Chest tightness

  • Frequent respiratory tract infections

  • Fatigue

  • Swollen ankles, feet, or legs

  • Unintentional weight loss


Bronchiectasis is a condition in which the bronchi of the lungs become permanently enlarged, resulting in a cough with a lot of mucus. Common causes of bronchiectasis include Cystic fibrosis, Infections like Influenza, Tuberculosis, streptococcus, chlamydia, legionella, etc. Other causes of bronchiectasis can include Autoimmune diseases like:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

  • Ulcerative colitis

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Sjögren syndrome

The signs and symptoms of bronchiectasis include:

  • Long-standing cough

  • Cough with lots of mucus

  • Cough along with blood

  • Whistling sound (wheezing) when breathing

  • breathlessness

  • chest pain

  • weight loss

  • malaise

  • Spoon shaped nails (clubbing)

Interstitial lung disease:

Interstitial lung disease refers to a large group of diseases involving the lung interstitium. The interstitium is the space and tissue surrounding the tiny spaces for air exchange- the alveoli. 

In this disease, the lung interstitium becomes stiff (pulmonary fibrosis), making breathing difficult.

There are several causes of interstitial lung disease. Common causes include autoimmune diseases, exposure to irritant gases, organic dust and molds, certain drugs like Chemotherapy drugs such as bleomycin, Antibiotics, Antiarrhythmic drugs, or infections of the lungs. 

The symptoms of interstitial lung disease include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dry cough


Many diseases can affect pulmonary function and many causes. The most common factors that affect pulmonary function are exposure to irritant gases like tobacco, or environmental exposure to different irritant gases. To prevent pulmonary function diseases, it is important to quit smoking and have regular health checkups if you work in an environment where you become exposed to irritant gases.

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