Living With a Lung Disease

If you've been diagnosed with a lung disease, you know that simple, everyday tasks can be challenging. You are not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from some form of lung disease. Some types cause the tissue in the lungs to become inflamed and scarred, while others can increase the pressure in arteries that supply blood to the lungs—all of which can make it difficult to breathe fully and freely.

The pulmonary experts at Cedars-Sinai are dedicated to providing you with the most accurate diagnosis possible, and creating a personalized care plan that's right for your needs—one that helps you manage your condition and make healthy lifestyle choices, so you can live a fuller and more active life.

Types & Symptoms of Lung Disease

Lung diseases affect your body's ability to absorb oxygen, and may get worse over time—sometimes to the point of disability. They generally fall into three main categories:

Restrictive—when you have difficulty drawing in breath and fully expanding your lungs due to inflammation and scarring of lung tissue. Some of these conditions are also called interstitial lung disease. Common types include:

  • Pneumoconiosis
  • Eosinophilic pneumonia
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis

Obstructive—when your airways narrow, making it hard to exhale. Common types include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Cystic fibrosis 

Pulmonary vascular—when you have difficulty breathing due to problems with the blood vessels that connect the lungs to the heart. Common types include:

  • Pulmonary arterial hypertension
  • Pulmonary venous hypertension
  • Pulmonary embolism

Many lung diseases have similar symptoms, which can range in intensity from mild to extremely severe. Most people will experience shortness of breath, fatigue and frequent cough—which can prevent you from doing things you enjoy.

Recognizing the common warning signs will allow you to seek medical treatment sooner and help prevent your condition from getting worse. Learn more about your lung condition and how the experts at Cedars-Sinai can help you manage your symptoms.

Timely Detection

Since a variety of different lung diseases have similar symptoms—and because many can worsen over time—it's important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. This helps your doctor understand the progression of your disease and create a treatment plan that's specific to your individual condition.

Identifying lung diseases typically involves a combination of routine exams, along with imaging, bronchoscopies (visual exams of your airways) and pulmonary function tests (noninvasive procedures that measure your ability to get air in and out of the lungs). Using the latest techniques, the care team at Cedars-Sinai can help you get the answers you need so you can begin treatment as soon as possible.

Treating Lung Disease

The treatment you receive depends on the type and severity of your condition. Your lung care team will focus on managing symptoms, improving breathing, slowing the progression of scarring and inflammation, and improving blood flow to your lungs.

A typical treatment plan for lung disease includes:

  • Medications:
    • Prescription or over-the-counter cough suppressants ease symptoms associated with repetitive coughing.
    • Bronchodilators open up the blocked airways of the lungs.
    • Steroids reduce swelling and inflammation of lung tissue.
    • Antibiotics treat respiratory infections, which are often associated with symptom flare-ups.
    • Antifibrotics reduce the formation of scar tissue in and around the lungs.
    • Blood thinners help prevent the formation of blood clots.
    • Vasodilators can help prevent harmful pressure in the arteries of your lungs.
  • Oxygen therapy delivers air with a higher percentage of oxygen to your lungs. It may be used continually or as needed.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation includes breath retraining, muscle-strengthening exercises, and nutritional and medication advice. 
  • lung transplant may be required in highly advanced cases if symptoms are severe enough, treatments haven't been successful and if you meet specific criteria.
  • Lifestyle changes can help you manage your lung disease. For example:
    • Don't smoke. If you currently smoke, enroll in a program to quit, which can include medications, counseling, behavior modification and other therapies that can be adjusted to your needs.
    • Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, dust and pollution.
    • Prevent illness and infections by getting regular vaccinations (especially for influenza and pneumonia), maintaining good hygiene and avoiding crowded environments.
    • Stay healthy and active. Don't put off medical checkups or screenings, and exercise regularly (with your doctor's approval).

Preparing for Your Appointment

Find out what to bring to your appointment and what to expect during your visit with a lung care specialist at Cedars-Sinai.

Clinical Trials & Research

Leading the way in lung care involves constantly searching for better treatments. Learn about the latest clinical trials and research being conducted at Cedars-Sinai to address pulmonary conditions and to develop new therapies to address them.

Still Have Questions or Need Help

If you need a diagnosis, treatment or second opinion, call or send a message to our care team. We'll help you find the right care as soon as possible. You can also have us call you back at your convenience.

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