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List of 10 Common Signs and Symptoms of Respiratory Diseases and Disorders

March 31, 2023



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What is respiratory diseases and disorders

Respiratory diseases and disorders are a group of conditions that affect the lungs and respiratory system, which includes the airways, lungs, and breathing muscles. These conditions can range from mild to severe and can affect people of all ages. Some common respiratory diseases and disorders include:

  • Asthma: A chronic condition in which the airways become inflamed and narrow, making it difficult to breathe.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): A group of lung diseases that cause breathing difficulties, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Pneumonia: An infection of the lungs that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
  • Tuberculosis (TB): An infectious disease caused by bacteria that can affect the lungs, as well as other parts of the body.
  • Lung cancer: A type of cancer that starts in the lungs and can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Pulmonary fibrosis: A condition in which the lung tissue becomes scarred and thickened, making it difficult to breathe.
  • Sleep apnea: A disorder in which a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep, which can cause snoring and fatigue.
  • Allergic rhinitis: An allergic reaction to airborne substances, such as pollen or dust, that can cause nasal congestion, sneezing, and itchy eyes.

Respiratory disease statistics worldwide

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lower respiratory infections, including pneumonia, were the leading cause of death from infectious diseases worldwide in 2019, accounting for 2.6 million deaths.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major respiratory disease, and it was estimated to be the third leading cause of death globally in 2019, causing 3.0 million deaths.
  • Asthma is another common respiratory disease, and it affects an estimated 339 million people worldwide. It is also the most common chronic disease among children.
  • Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs, and it is a leading cause of death worldwide. In 2019, there were an estimated 10 million cases of TB globally, and 1.4 million deaths from the disease.
  • In addition to these specific respiratory diseases, air pollution is a major risk factor for respiratory problems, with an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide attributed to outdoor air pollution in 2019.

Chronic respiratory disease Statistics

Chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) are a group of conditions that affect the respiratory system, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and pulmonary hypertension, among others. Here are some statistics related to chronic respiratory diseases:

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic respiratory diseases are responsible for about 4 million deaths globally each year.
  • COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide, after heart disease and stroke. In 2019, it was responsible for 3.3 million deaths.
  • Asthma affects an estimated 235 million people globally, and its prevalence is increasing. In 2020, it was responsible for an estimated 461,000 deaths.
  • In the United States, COPD affects approximately 16 million people and is the fourth leading cause of death. It is estimated to cost the US healthcare system around $50 billion annually.
  • Exposure to air pollution is a significant risk factor for CRDs. According to the WHO, more than 90% of the world’s population breathes air that does not meet the organization’s air quality guidelines.
  • Smoking is the leading cause of COPD and is responsible for about 80% of cases. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.
  • Pulmonary hypertension is a relatively rare condition, affecting around 15-50 people per million. However, it can be severe and life-threatening, with a five-year survival rate of around 60%.

10 common signs and symptoms of respiratory diseases and disorders

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing: This is a common symptom of respiratory diseases and disorders. It can occur at rest or during physical activity.
  • Wheezing: Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound that is made when air flows through narrowed airways. It is often heard when someone with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exhales.
  • Chest tightness: This can feel like a heavy weight or pressure on the chest. It may be a symptom of asthma or COPD.
  • Chronic cough: A cough that lasts for more than eight weeks is considered chronic. It can be a symptom of asthma, COPD, or other respiratory diseases.
  • Fatigue: People with respiratory diseases may experience fatigue due to the extra effort required to breathe.
  • Cyanosis: Cyanosis is a bluish tint to the skin, lips, or fingernails. It can be a sign of low oxygen levels in the blood.
  • Rapid breathing: Tachypnea is the medical term for rapid breathing. It can be a symptom of a respiratory infection, asthma, or other lung conditions.
  • Chest pain: Chest pain can be a symptom of a serious respiratory condition, such as pneumonia or pulmonary embolism.
  • Sputum production: Sputum is the mucus that is coughed up from the lungs. An increase in sputum production can be a sign of a respiratory infection or chronic bronchitis.
  • Snoring: Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops and starts during sleep.

What are the 5 health habits to avoid respiratory diseases?

There are many health habits that can help prevent respiratory diseases, but here are five important ones:

  • Quit smoking: Smoking damages the lungs and weakens the body’s ability to fight respiratory infections. It’s one of the leading causes of respiratory diseases like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer.
  • Wash your hands frequently: Respiratory viruses like the flu and the common cold can be spread through close contact with infected people, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Regular hand-washing can help prevent the spread of these viruses.
  • Get vaccinated: Vaccines are available to protect against several respiratory illnesses, including influenza (flu) and pneumococcal disease. Talk to your healthcare provider about which vaccines are recommended for you.
  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help improve lung function and strengthen the immune system, making it less likely that you’ll get respiratory infections.
  • Practice good hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and dispose of used tissues properly. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay home if you’re feeling unwell to avoid spreading illness to others.

COPD Prevention and treatment

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a chronic respiratory disease that affects millions of people worldwide. The two main causes of COPD are smoking and exposure to air pollutants, such as fumes and chemicals.


  • Quit smoking: The most important step to prevent COPD is to quit smoking. This will slow down the progression of the disease and improve lung function.
  • Avoid air pollutants: Avoid exposure to air pollutants such as fumes, chemicals, and dust.
  • Get vaccinated: Vaccinations against influenza and pneumococcal disease can help prevent respiratory infections that can worsen COPD symptoms.


  • Medications: Bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids can help open up the airways and reduce inflammation.
  • Oxygen therapy: In advanced cases of COPD, oxygen therapy can help improve breathing and reduce complications.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation: This is a program that combines exercise, education, and breathing techniques to improve lung function and quality of life.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgical treatments such as lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplant may be considered.


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Published March 31, 2023

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