Respiratory disorders Symptoms and Causes


Asbestosis: Inhaling asbestos fibers may cause scar tissue to develop inside the lungs.
Asthma: Individuals who are sensitive to environmental factors (e.g. air pollutants, smoke, chemicals, etc.) and have a family history of asthma are more likely to develop the condition.
Common cold: A cold is caused by a viral infection. Viruses that may cause a cold include rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, adenoviruses, echoviruses, respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV), and coxsackieviruses. Although over a hundred different viruses can cause colds, 30-50% are caused by rhinoviruses.
Cough: Asthma is a common cause of chronic cough in adults and a leading cause in children. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition where stomach acid flows back into the tube that connects the stomach and the throat (esophagus). This causes constant irritation which may lead to chronic coughing. Blood pressure drugs, such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors), have also been known to cause cough in approximately 20% of patients taking them.
Croup: Children may develop croup after breathing respiratory droplets infected with the virus. Croup is usually caused by parainfluenza viruses (viruses causing upper respiratory infections (colds) or lower respiratory infections (pneumonia)).Virus particles may survive on toys or other surfaces.
Laryngitis: Laryngitis is usually caused by a virus. Additionally, laryngitis may also be caused by a bacterial infection or the common cold, bronchitis, flu, or pneumonia.
Pharyngitis: Viruses (such as those that cause the common cold) and bacteria (which can cause many illnesses such as strep throat) may cause a sore throat. The bacteria group A streptococci causes pharyngitis in 5-15% of adults and 15-30% of children. However, approximately 85% of cases of pharyngitis are caused by a virus.
Pulmonary hypertension: Pulmonary hypertension may be caused by diseases of the heart and the lungs, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, sleep apnea (a sleeping disorder characterized by pauses in breathing), failure of the left heart ventricle, and recurrent pulmonary embolism (blood clots traveling from the legs or pelvic veins obstructing the pulmonary arteries), or underlying diseases such as scleroderma (scar tissue in the organs).
Respiratory distress syndrome: Respiratory distress syndrome results from the absence of the liquid coating inside a baby's lungs (called surfactant) that keeps them open so that he/she can breathe in after birth.
Respiratory syncytial virus: Individuals may develop respiratory syncytial virus by inhaling respiratory secretions from people coughing or sneezing. Additionally, direct contact (e.g. shaking hands) with infected individuals may spread respiratory syncytial virus.
Rhinitis: Airborne substances, known as allergens, may cause allergic rhinitis. These allergens are usually harmless and only cause allergic symptoms in some people.
Sarcoidosis: Research is being done to determine the causes of sarcoidosis. Scientists believe that sarcoidosis may develop when the body's immune system responds to something in the environment, such as bacteria, viruses, dust, or chemicals, resulting in inflammation. In this case, there may be a malfunction in the body's natural defense system causing it not to work properly and overreact.
Sinusitis: Bacterial infections are usually the cause of acute sinusitis. When the sinuses are blocked for a long time, a secondary bacterial infection may develop, causing sinusitis.


Asbestosis: A chest X-ray may be used to diagnose asbestosis. Asbestosis appears as excessive whiteness in the lungs.
Asthma: Spirometry is a noninvasive way to evaluate the air capacity of the lungs. Physicians are able to measure the volume of air exhaled before and after a bronchodilator (inhaler) is used.
Cold: Colds are usually diagnosed clinically by the presence of typical symptoms including runny or stuffy nose, itchy or sore throat, dry cough, nasal congestion, facial pressure (sinuses), slight body aches or a mild headache, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, low-grade fever (less than 102 degrees Fahrenheit), and mild fatigue (tiredness).
Croup: The doctor will look for signs such as a barking cough and stridor (squeaking sound on inhaling). Additionally, the child will be checked for fever and cold symptoms and the doctor will determine whether there is a prior history of croup or airway problems.
Pharyngitis: A rapid strep test can be done within 20 minutes in the doctor's office. If the results are positive, then the doctor will start an antibiotic. If the rapid strep test is negative, then a culture to grow the bacteria should be done to confirm the results. A throat culture is more accurate than the rapid strep test but takes several days to get the results.
Pulmonary hypertension: An echocardiogram may be used to determine whether a patient has pulmonary hypertension. This test is noninvasive and uses harmless sound waves so that the doctor may see the heart without making an incision. A picture of the heart is recorded, and the doctor may determine the size and thickness of the heart muscle.
Respiratory distress syndrome: Blood samples are taken to determine whether a baby has enough oxygen in the blood, which may help diagnose respiratory distress syndrome.
Respiratory syncytial virus: The doctor will usually listen to the lungs with a stethoscope to check for signs of wheezing. Additionally, fluid may be taken from the nose with a cotton swab to identify the virus.
Rhinitis: An allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) test, commonly often referred to as radioallergosorbent test (RAST®), is a type of blood test that can help determine if a patient who experiences allergy symptoms, such as runny nose, watery eyes, and hives, is allergic to particular substances called allergens. The in vitro test (performed outside of the body in a laboratory setting) exposes a blood sample to suspected allergens (like dust mites, pollen, or animal dander) to determine whether the patient has developed allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that recognize and bind to specific antigens. During the procedure, a sample of blood is taken from the patient. The blood is then sent to a laboratory that performs specific IgE blood tests. An allergen-antigen complex is bound to a paper disc called an allergosorbent and the patient's blood is added. If the blood contains antibodies to the specific antigen, it will bind to the "tagged" immunoglobulins. RAST® is less accurate than a skin test. However, if the patient has a severe skin disease (such as eczema or psoriasis) that is present on large areas of skin on the arms or back, a skin test may not be possible. This is because the skin test may only be performed on the arms and back, and there may not be enough unaffected skin to perform a conclusive test. For these patients, an allergen-specific IgE test is the preferred diagnostic method.
Sarcoidosis: When enlargement of the lymph glands in the center of the lungs is seen on X-ray, sarcoidosis is suspected.
Sinusitis: Allergy testing may be conducted to detect specific allergens that might be causing sinusitis. Computerized tomography (CT) scans, which produce detailed images of the sinus cavities, may be used to identify inflamed areas. Cultures (blood tests) may be used to detect a bacterial or fungal infection. An endoscopic examination may be performed. During this procedure, a narrow, flexible fiber-optic scope is inserted into the nasal cavity through the nostrils. The physician is then able to see where the sinuses and middle ear drain into the nose. Blood tests may be conducted to rule out other conditions that may be associated with sinusitis, like an immune deficiency disorder or cystic fibrosis.

signs and symptoms

Asbestosis: The effects of long term exposure to asbestos typically don't show up for at least 20 to 30 years following initial exposure. Symptoms may include the following: shortness of breath, decreased tolerance for physical activity, coughing, and chest pain.
Asthma: Symptoms of asthma may include the following: bronchospasm (abnormal contraction of the bronchi causing airway obstruction), coughing, wheezing or whistling sounds when exhaling, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, chest tightness or chest pain, and fatigue.
Common cold: Symptoms of a common cold usually appear about one to three days after exposure to a cold virus. Signs and symptoms of a common cold may include runny or stuffy nose, itchy or sore throat, dry cough, facial pressure due to sinuses (hollow bones in the front of the face), slight body aches or a mild headache, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, low-grade fever (less than 102 degrees Fahrenheit), and mild fatigue (tiredness). Nasal discharge may become thicker as a common cold runs its course. What makes a cold different from other viral infections (such as influenza) is that the individual generally will not have a high fever or colored sputum. They are also unlikely to experience significant fatigue from a common cold. Colds last for approximately one week. Mild colds may last only two or three days while severe colds may last for up to two weeks. Cough due to a cold can last for hours or days.
Cough: Some coughs are dry (nonproductive) while others are considered productive. A productive cough is one that brings up mucus.
Croup: Croup features a cough that sounds like a seal barking. Most children have a mild cold for several days before the barking cough occurs. As the cough becomes more frequent, labored breathing or stridor (a harsh, crowing noise made when breathing in) may occur. Croup is usually worse at night and lasts for five or six nights. In severe cases, the upper airway may become swollen to the point that it is blocked off (airway obstruction). When croup lasts longer than one week, a doctor should be contacted. Children younger than five years of age are more likely to become infected with croup.
Laryngitis: Patients may experience hoarseness, weak voice, sore throat, dry throat, or cough when they have laryngitis. If symptoms last for more than two weeks in an adult or one week in a child, then a doctor should be consulted as this may be a sign of a more serious condition.
Pharyngitis: With pharyngitis, patients may experience sore throat, fever, headache, runny nose, difficulty swallowing, and rarely, difficulty breathing. Pharyngitis usually goes away without complications. However, if the sore throat does not go away after several days, then a doctor should be contacted. Symptoms should go away in approximately one week in patients with viral pharyngitis. In patients with strep throat, symptoms should go away a couple of days after beginning antibiotics. It is important for patients to finish taking their entire antibiotic even if they feel better. Strep throat generally presents as more severe, redder in coloration, more painful, and frequently involves swollen glands.
Pulmonary hypertension: Patients with pulmonary hypertension may experience the following signs and symptoms: chronic fatigue, shortness of breath (dyspnea), chest pain (angina), palpitations, fainting, swollen ankles and legs (edema), and fluid in the abdomen (ascites). These are also symptoms for other diseases such as congestive heart failure; therefore, physicians should rule out other diseases before making a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension. Unfortunately, these symptoms may affect a person's ability to perform daily tasks such as walking, dressing oneself, and cleaning.
Respiratory distress syndrome: Signs and symptoms of respiratory distress syndrome usually appear at birth or within the next few hours and include the following: rapid, shallow breathing, sharp pulling in the chest below the ribs with each inhale, grunting sounds during exhaling, and flaring of the nostrils during breathing.
Respiratory syncytial virus: Symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus may include cough, stuffy or runny nose, mild sore throat, fever, and irritability. Between 0.5% and 2% of infants and young children require hospitalization. However, most recover from the illness in 8-15 days with oxygen therapy or sometimes mechanical ventilation.
Rhinitis: Symptoms of allergic rhinitis vary greatly among individuals. Common symptoms include: cough, headache, itchy nose, itchy mouth, itchy throat, itchy skin, nosebleeds, impaired smell, watery eyes, sore throat, wheezing, fever, cross-reactivity allergy to some fruits, pink eye (conjunctivitis), nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, runny nose, and swelling of the nasal tissues (may cause headaches). Some patients, especially those suffering from vasomotor rhinitis, sneeze when moving from a cold room to a warmer one.
Sarcoidosis: Patients may experience a dry cough (without sputum), shortness of breath (dyspnea), or chest pain. Additionally, there may be more general symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, fever, and weight loss.
Sinusitis: Patients with sinusitis generally experience symptoms that may affect the nose, eyes, or middle ear including thick nasal drainage, bad-tasting postnasal drip, plugged-up nose, cough, difficulty breathing, head congestion, headache, facial swelling, toothache, constant fatigue, tender cheeks, swollen eyelids, pain between the eyes, neck pain and occasionally fever. Individuals suffering from chronic sinusitis may also have nasal polyps, which are abnormal tissue growths (polypoidal masses) found in the mucous membranes of the nose and paranasal sinuses. Since nasal polyps often block the nasal passages and sinuses, breathing problems may develop.


Bronchitis and pneumonia: The common cold poses a risk for bronchitis and pneumonia in nursing home patients and other people who may be susceptible to infection. Some experts believe that the rhinovirus may play a more significant role than the flu in causing lower respiratory infections in such individuals.
Bronchiolitis: Bronchiolitis is an infection of the airways of the lungs and usually occurs in young children between three and six months of age. RSV causes more than half of all bronchiolitis cases.
Cough complications: Patients may develop headache, dizziness, and fractured ribs from a chronic cough.
Lung cancer: Patients may have an increased risk of developing lung cancer if they have asbestosis. Additionally, both asbestosis and smoking put patients at an even higher risk for cancer.
Untreated strep throat: Untreated strep throat may lead to serious complications such as glomerulonephritis (kidney disorder) and rheumatic fever (a potentially life-threatening illness that may damage the heart valves).

risk factors

Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for developing a cough and other respiratory disorders. Additionally, women tend to have more sensitive cough reflexes making them more likely to develop a cough. Exposure to allergens such as dust and pollen may make a person more susceptible to developing a cough.
Children who are five years old or younger or who were born prematurely are more likely to develop croup (a disease of infants and young children characterized by harsh coughing, hoarseness, fever, and difficult breathing).
People most at risk for developing asbestosis (scarring of the lungs that results in difficulty breathing) include those who have had at least 10 years of moderate to severe exposure to asbestos, such as workers involved in mining, milling, manufacturing, or installation of asbestos products.
Viral infections are the main cause of colds. They include: rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, adenoviruses, echoviruses, respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV), and coxsackieviruses, which can infect the upper respiratory system. Although over 100 different viruses may cause colds, 30-50% of colds are caused by rhinoviruses.
The majority of patients hospitalized for RSV are under six months of age. For infants and children born prematurely (35 weeks gestation or less), RSV may cause serious respiratory tract disease or even death.