Lung diseases

The contents of this page have been produced by a team of physicians and experts of the Italian Institute of Telemedicine in compliance with the recommendations of the latest medical and scientific guidelines. Institutional communication not subject to authorisation pursuant to the Ministerial Decree 23/02/2006.

What are the most common lung diseases?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma are the most common chronic lung diseases.

We are dealing with pathologies causing an obstruction of the airways flow. The obstruction is progressive over time and persistent in case of COPD while it is reversible with the due treatment for asthma.

COPD is a typical adult’s disease, and asthma is a common condition for young people.

COPD and asthma in figures

COPD affects up to 20% of adult people over 40, but its arising becomes higher along with the age, particularly for smokers.

In the world 210 million people suffer from COPD, while asthma affects 300 million individuals. COPD has a much higher death rate than asthma: 3 million deaths a year against 250 thousand deaths due to asthma.

Due to the global pollution, COPD is nowadays the fourth cause of death in the world. Anyway, according to the last estimations it will become within 2030 the third cause of death, after cardiovascular diseases and cancers.

A non-treated COPD causes recurring respiratory infections in addition to a respiratory failure with oxygen deficiency to the organs in the long term.

The causes of COPD and asthma

In COPD the obstruction is only partially reversible with the treatment and is caused by an inflammatory process of the lungs, as a reaction to the effects of gases or of noxious corpuscular substances (typically the cigarette smoke or environmental pollutants, the notorious PM10).

Asthma on the contrary is an obstructive disease, reversible with the treatment, caused by allergic or autoimmune reactions, or by genetic factors (family relationships).

The causes of COPD and asthma

In COPD the obstruction is only partially reversible with the treatment and is caused by an inflammatory process of the lungs, as a reaction to the effects of gases or of noxious corpuscular substances (typically the cigarette smoke or environmental pollutants, the notorious PM10).

Asthma on the contrary is an obstructive disease, reversible with the treatment, caused by allergic or autoimmune reactions, or by genetic factors (family relationships).

Risk factors of COPD

  • Active and passive cigarette smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Pollution of indoor environments (poorly ventilated stoves, for instance)
  • Pollution due to dust, chemicals and professional substances

How to diagnose COPD and asthma

While the ones who are suffering from asthma complains of more or less important disturbances, COPD is symptom-free for half the patients until the obstruction becomes important and the disease is fully blown.

To identify a COPD the main test is the spirometry. It’s a test which assesses the lung functions by means of a device called spirometer which measures the air volumes and flows caused by the patient who inhales and exhales in a specific period through a sensor placed inside a turbine and connected to the mouth of the patient by means of a mouthpiece.

The test is of utmost importance for the screening of the respiratory diseases (both COPD and asthma) and for the monitoring of its progression over time.

When do we have to suspect a COPD?

  • Age >40 years
  • Breathlessness (dyspnea) getting worse over time, persistent and getting worse under stress
  • Chronic cough, even without phlegm, mainly in the morning for at least 3 months, for at least 2 subsequent years
  • Chronic phlegm production
  • History of exposure to risk factors (most typically the smoke of cigarettes)
  • Family relationships for COPD

How to treat COPD and asthma

The first effective measure to fight the lung diseases is to avoid or at least to reduce the exposure to the cigarette smoke, to the pollutants and to the allergens.

COPD, in fact, is significantly due to the cigarette smoke, to the pollutants and to the fine dusts we daily breathe in our towns.

Asthma, instead, is heavily influenced by all the common allergens such as home dust, animal hair and pollen.

The physician shall prescribe in worst cases specific therapies based on bronchodilators, antibiotics (in case of concomitant lung infections) and steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (cortisone-based). The influenza vaccine is particularly useful for reducing the risk of pneumonia, especially in COPD.

WHAT CAN THOLOMEUS® DO FOR YOU

The test to be performed in order to monitor pathologies such as COPD and asthma is the spirometry which, thanks to Tholomeus® and to certified spirometers is performed in a clinical environment.

All data on your lung function will be uploaded in the section of Tholomeus® devoted to your exams and you can view them in any moment by signing in for free.

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