Disease of the lung

The following is an overview and brief explanation of the most important diseases of the lungs and respiratory tract.
The lungs are responsible for sufficient oxygen intake and supply to the body. It consists of two spatially and functionally independent lungs and embraces the heart with them. Common are the two organs in the chest ( thorax ), protected by the ribs.

The diseases of the lung

Below is an overview of the most common diseases & injuries of the lung structured by:

  1. Infections and inflammation
  2. Obstructive lung disease
  3. Dysfunction and structural disorders of the lungs
  4. Rare diseases of the lungs

Infections and inflammation

Pneumonia / pneumonia

Pneumonia is a relatively common but very serious condition. Especially in elderly and bedridden patients, it often leads to pneumonia, which can end fatally in the worst case. Even with longer hospital stays, the risk of developing pneumonia increases. Most pneumonia is caused by pathogens such as the bacteria pneumococcus. In bacterial pneumonia, antibiotic therapy is usually the drug of choice.


Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi, that is, the portion of the airways that conducts the air from the trachea to the end of the lungs. Unlike pneumonia, bronchitis is usually triggered by viruses. The current bronchitis usually heals within 1-2 weeks to suppress the coughing stimulus, cough suppressant drugs such as codeine drops can be used.
Smoking can trigger chronic bronchitis, which can cause severe pulmonary dysfunction and severely limit life expectancy. (see also COPD)

Inflammation of the trachea

An inflammation of the trachea is a rarer inflammation of the respiratory tract, which usually occurs together with other symptoms in the area of ​​the nasopharynx. It can be triggered by bacteria and viruses, but also by other substances that irritate the mucosa of the trachea. This mainly includes cigarette smoke. Patients usually suffer from dry cough, hoarseness, and general disease symptoms such as fever.


The pleura or pleura (" pleura ") clothes the chest from the inside and thus rests against the lungs from the outside. An inflammation of the pleura usually does not occur on its own, but is a consequence or complication of another disease. For example, pneumonia can spread to the pleura. A pleurisy, medically pleurisy, is usually associated with severe pain, feeling sick and possibly breathing difficulties. Therapy is usually inpatient and involves intensified antibiotics. Even in the context of cancer of the lung, the pleura can be affected.

Obstructive lung disease

bronchial asthma

Bronchial asthma, or asthma for short, is one of the most enduring lung diseases. These so-called obstructions are characterized by the fact that patients have problems due to narrowed / misplaced airways to exhale the air in the lungs. The genesis of asthma is still not fully understood, there are many different triggers. In addition to genetic and environmental factors, such as particulate matter and cigarette smoke exposure, especially allergic influences play a role. In general, there are extensive inflammatory reactions within the lungs that cause the respiratory tract to swell and narrow. In therapy, respiratory extension (eg salbutamol) and anti-inflammatory sprays (eg cortisone) are used. But modern antibody-containing drugs are increasingly playing a role.


COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - in English "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease". It usually develops over a long period from chronic bronchitis and in over 90% of cases, long-term cigarette consumption is the trigger of the disease. The diagnosis of COPD is made when a chronic slimy cough was present in a patient for 2 consecutive years for a period of at least 3 months. The COPD is not curable, the therapy aims to stop the progression of the disease. For this purpose, smoking should be stopped. Symptomatic drugs similar to those used in asthma, for example. Salbutamol / cortisone sprays.


Pulmonary emphysema is an over-inflating of a pulmonary alveolus or part of a lung lobe. This hyperinflation usually develops over the years through chronic lung disease, such as COPD. The air remains in this case in the emphysema and can not be exhaled. Since this part of the lung can no longer participate in the oxygen supply and becomes functionless, the patients suffer from shortness of breath and exhaustion.

Dysfunction and structural disorders of the lungs

lung cancer

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both women and men and is the deadliest cancer in men. The development of lung cancer has not yet been conclusively resolved, but the most important risk factor is smoking by far. Over 90% of all lung cancer patients are or were smokers. First symptoms of lung cancer are usually persistent and possibly bloody cough, as well as weight loss. Since the lungs are well connected to the blood and lymphatic system of the body, metastases form in the body relatively quickly. Therefore, the prognosis of lung cancer is worse than other cancers. In therapy, an operative removal of the tumor, as well as radiation and chemotherapy is used.

pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism is the occlusion of a blood vessel that supplies the lungs (pulmonary artery). As a rule, this occlusion is the result of a blood clot that has been scavenged, which, for example, occurs as part of a thrombosis in the leg and from there via the blood system into the lungs. This blood clot is also called "embolus". The lung area, which is no longer supplied with blood due to the blood clot, can no longer "breathe" and therefore the supply of oxygen to the body is endangered. A pulmonary embolism is therefore a very serious condition, which should be treated in hospital. About 20, 000-40, 000 people die every year in Germany from a pulmonary embolism.

pulmonary fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a chronic disease in which the lung tissue undergoes connective tissue remodeling and thus loses function. As a result, the lungs become less elastic and the oxygen exchange is reduced. As a result, pulmonary fibrosis leads to respiratory distress, impaired performance and right heart failure.

pulmonary edema

In a pulmonary edema, it is simply water in the lungs. This water usually enters the lungs because of the accumulation of blood in the lungs, which allows water to pass from the blood system to the lung tissue. After the blood in the lungs becomes saturated with oxygen, the blood is passed on to the left heart. If there is a left heart failure ( heart failure ), the left heart no longer pumps enough and the blood jams back into the lungs. But even with a kidney failure ( kidney failure / renal insufficiency ), it can lead to pulmonary edema, since the water balance of the body is generally too large and water can settle in the lungs. Patients usually suffer from shortness of breath and chronic cough.


The word pneumothorax means in German as much as "air in the chest". This air is normally in the lungs and not in the free space between the lungs and chest. Pneumothorax occurs when the lungs are damaged and the air can enter the thorax like a valve from the lungs. In the context of an accident, these lung injuries can arise, for example, from a rib fracture, but also when a distended lung section (pulmonary emphysema) "bursts". Also in the context of other underlying diseases, such as pneumonia or lung cancer, pneumothorax may occur. For treatment, the air from the chest cavity can be released through a small incision between the ribs so that the lungs can fully expand again.

Rare diseases of the lungs

Information on other rare diseases of the lung can be found here:

  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • sarcoidosis
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • hemothorax
  • bronchiectasis
  • atelectasis

Restrictive Lung Diseases; An Introduction | Pulmonary Medicine (February 2020).

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