What Are the Top 10 Lung Diseases?

Reviewed on 6/23/2022

Rendering of human lungs showing a lung cancer tumor
The most common lung diseases include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiectasis, bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, lung cancer, pneumonia, pulmonary edema, and influenza (“the flu”).

Lung diseases are diseases or disorders that can affect respiratory function, the ability to breathe, and how well the lungs work.

Some of the most common lung diseases include: 

  1. Asthma
  2. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  3. Bronchiectasis
  4. Bronchitis
  5. Pulmonary fibrosis
  6. Sarcoidosis
  7. Lung cancer
  8. Pneumonia
  9. Pulmonary edema
  10. Influenza (“the flu”)

What Are Symptoms of Lung Diseases?

Symptoms of lung disease vary depending on the condition and may include:

What Causes Lung Diseases?

The cause of lung disease varies depending on the condition. 

  • Asthma
    • It is unknown how a person gets asthma, but it’s usually caused by an immune system response to a substance in the lungs
    • People with asthma often have triggers for symptoms 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Smoking tobacco (the main cause)
    • Inhaling secondhand smoke
    • Exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace
    • A history of respiratory infections 
    • Genetic factors, such as alpha-1 deficiency
  • Bronchiectasis
    • Primary bacterial or viral infections
    • Bronchial obstruction
    • Foreign body aspiration
    • Cystic fibrosis or Young syndrome
    • Primary ciliary dyskinesia
    • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA)
    • Immunodeficiency states, both genetic and acquired, such as HIV/AIDS
    • Congenital anatomic defects 
    • Connective-tissue disorders
    • Alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency
    • Autoimmune diseases 
    • Idiopathic inflammatory disorders
    • Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD)
    • Traction from other processes
    • Toxic gas exposure 
  • Bronchitis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Certain medications
    • Radiation
    • Exposure to triggers
    • Autoimmune problems
    • Workplace exposures
  • Sarcoidosis
    • It is unknown how a person gets sarcoidosis; may be a genetic component, or bacteria, viruses, or chemicals may trigger the disease
  • Lung cancer
    • Smoking (main cause of all types of lung cancer
    • Secondhand smoke exposure
    • Workplace exposure to asbestos, diesel exhaust, or other chemicals 
    • Air pollution
    • Exposure to radon
    • Genetic changes
  • Pneumonia
    • Bacteria
    • Viruses
    • Fungi
  • Pulmonary edema
    • Congestive heart failure 
    • Certain medicines
    • High altitude exposure
    • Kidney failure
    • Narrowed arteries that bring blood to the kidneys
    • Lung damage caused by poisonous gas or severe infection
    • Major injury 
  • Influenza
    • Influenza virus


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How Are Lung Diseases Diagnosed?

A variety of tests may be ordered to diagnose you with a lung condition such as asthma, COPD, bronchitis, lung cancer, and others. These tests may include one or more of the following:

  • Pulmonary function tests
    • Spirometry    
    • Peak expiratory flow (PEF)    
    • Bronchoprovocation tests    
    • Fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) tests    
    • Provocation (Trigger) Tests
  • Allergy skin or blood tests, in patients who have a history of allergies
  • Chest X-ray
  • Arterial blood gas test to measure oxygen levels in the blood
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Lung tissue biopsy via bronchoscopy 
  • Sputum culture
  • Blood tests 
    • Immunoglobulin levels
    • Alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) levels
    • Aspergillus precipitins 
    • Total IgE levels
    • Vitamin D levels
  • Autoimmune screening tests
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) of the heart

What Is the Treatment for Lung Diseases?

Treatment for lung disease varies depending on the condition. 

  • Asthma
    • Quick-relief medications bronchodilators 
    • Long-term asthma control medications 
    • Biologics
    • Oral corticosteroids
    • Immunotherapy, useful when asthma is triggered by an allergy
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Quitting smoking
    • Avoiding secondhand tobacco smoke
    • Avoiding air pollutants at home and at work
    • Pulmonary rehabilitation
    • Medications to treat symptoms 
    • Supplemental oxygen
  • Bronchiectasis
    • Antibiotics 
    • Bronchodilators
    • Corticosteroids
    • Chest physiotherapy 
    • Pulmonary rehabilitation
    • Dietary supplementation
    • Oxygen (reserved for hypoxemic patients with severe disease)
    • Hospitalization for severe exacerbations
    • Surgical therapies
  • Bronchitis
    • Acute bronchitis
      • Home remedies
        • Rest
        • Drinking plenty of liquids
        • Sucking on lozenges, cough drops, or hard candy
        • Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines and pain-relievers
        • Inhaling warm, moist air
        • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke
    • Chronic bronchitis 
      • Prescription inhalers or steroids
      • Oxygen 
      • Pulmonary rehab 
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Supplemental oxygen 
    • Pulmonary rehabilitation 
    • Medications
    • Lung transplantation 
  • Sarcoidosis
    • Mild cases may not need treatment
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 
    • Corticosteroids 
    • Other medications
    • Rehabilitation programs
    • Oxygen therapy and/or lung transplantation in severe cases
  • Lung cancer
    • Surgery 
    • Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
    • Laser therapy
    • Radiation therapy
    • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) 
    • Lymph node removal
    • Chemotherapy 
    • Targeted therapy
    • Immunotherapy 
    • Participation in clinical trials
  • Pneumonia
    • Antibiotics, if the cause is bacterial
    • Antivirals, if the cause is viral
    • Home treatment such as:
      • Getting a lot of rest
      • Drinking plenty of fluids 
      • Fever reducers 
      • Inhaling steam
      • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke or any other lung irritants
  • Pulmonary edema
    • Oxygen 
    • Ventilator
    • Medications such as diuretics and other medicines that strengthen the heart muscle, control the heartbeat, or relieve pressure on the heart
  • Influenza
    • Home remedies
    • Antiviral medications

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Reviewed on 6/23/2022

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