This essay will be explaining the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of three conditions which effect the respiratory system, these are asthma, cystic fibrosis and tuberculosis. It will also be discussing how lung carcinoma and emphysema relate lifestyle to conditions and how they affect the respiratory system.
Asthma is a respiratory disorder that is associated with erratic contraction (abnormal tightening) of the bronchial smooth muscle, also known as a bronchospasm. Asthma causes shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and a tightness in the chest. There are 2 different types of asthma, these are extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic typically occurs in children who are more susceptible to obstructive problems due to the structure of their airways. Intrinsic is more common in adults and can be brought on by stress or exercise. There are many causes of having asthma naturally, these can be due to genetics; such as having a family history of the illness, having had bronchiolitis as a child, having an allergy related illness such as eczema or hay fever or being born prematurely; before 37 weeks. Asthma can also be brought on in life due to lifestyle factors such as smoking or environmental factors including pollen, dust particles or pollution.
For asthma to be diagnosed a person must see their GP who will then carry out a series of tests to see whether that person is a sufferer of the illness. The main tests are FeNO; you breathe into a machine and it measures the levels of nitric oxide in a person’s breath, this is a sign of inflammation in the lungs. Spirometry; this measure how fast you breathe out and how much air you hold in your lungs and finally the peak flow test, this measures how fast you can breathe out and can be done several times over a few weeks to judge whether there are any changes. Depending on what asthma you have or what treatments are available. There is no current cure for asthma, there are treatments which can control the symptoms. These include: inhalers, there are 2 types these are relievers and preventers. Relievers relieve symptoms as they occur and normally work within minutes and preventers are to be used daily to reduce inflammation and sensitivity of the airways. Both pumps cause the airways to widen which helps breathing become easier. There are also tablets, surgery and complementary therapies.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition in which a person has an excessive amount of mucus on the lungs. The lungs and digestive system become clogged up with this thick, sticky mucus. This mucus also clogs the pancreas which stops any enzymes reaching the gut and helping with digestion, this makes it difficult for nutrients to be absorbed into the body and malnutrition quite a plausible side effect, therefore people who suffer with CF generally struggle to gain weight. Other symptoms of this disease are coughing, frequent chest infections, breathing problems, diarrhoea and constipation. Cystic fibrosis is usually picked up at birth with a new-born screening heel prick test, if CF gets picked up on this test then further tests are required. These include a sweat test to measure the salt in the sweat, people with cystic fibrosis tend to have abnormally high levels of salt within their sweat. Another test would be a genetic test; a sample of blood or saliva is taken and tested to see if the results are positive to having CF. This test can also see if a person is a carrier of the disease. As cystic fibrosis doesn’t yet have a cure, a person will unfortunately have it for the rest of their lives. There are some treatments available and these include preventative medication such as dornase alfa, hypertonic saline and mannitol dry powder; these are to help make the mucus within the body thinner and easier to cough up. Bronchodilators are asthma like pumps which help widen the airways and help make it easier to be able to breathe. Steroid medications are also available in the form of a nasal spray which help treat nasal polyps, which block the airways, and make it easier to breathe. People with CF can also be on the organ donation list and have either a heart or lung transplant.
Tuberculosis, or otherwise known as TB is a bacterial infection which is spread by coughs and sneezes. There are two types of TB, latent and active. Tuberculosis is highly contagious whilst active and people whose immune systems are compromised are at a higher risk of contracting the illness, e.g.; smokers, diabetics, those who are malnourished and those with HIV. It is more likely to spread within people who live within a proximity to each other. Symptoms of active TB include a cough, fever, night sweats and weight loss; these can be delayed in seeking treatment due to these symptoms only being mild and getting ignored. Latent TB doesn’t cause any symptoms; however, TB can sometimes develop outside the lungs, within the lymph nodes, bones, joints, digestive system, bladder, reproductive system, brain and nervous system. Symptoms can include; swollen glands, abdominal pain, confusion and headaches. Diagnoses can be difficult, and several tests may be needed to diagnose the illness, these include a chest x-ray or a sample of phlegm to be taken and checked for the presence of TB. To test for TB that has developed outside the lungs there are different tests such as; a CT scan, MRI scan, ultrasound, biopsy or even a lumbar puncture. Tuberculosis can helped be prevented with the help of the BCG vaccine, this is 70-80% effective in preventing severe forms of TB (Vaccination against TB, 2016). Tuberculosis is a curable disease, with the use of antibiotics which must be taken for 6 months.
Other diseases can affect the respiratory system, some are natural, and others are due to lifestyle choices. An example of a disease which is due to lifestyle, yet also beyond a person’s control is lung carcinoma, also known as; lung cancer. Lung carcinoma is a malignant tumour on the lungs which in most cases is deadly. Signs and symptoms of the disease are a new cough that doesn’t go away, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain and general feeling unwell. It is not yet known exactly how this is caused yet lifestyle factors play an important role in contracting the disease, things such as; smoking, diet, obesity, lack of physical exercise and exposure to UV rays, this however is more commonly seen in skin cancer patients. Smoking is one of the leading causes in lung carcinoma and life insurance companies have concluded that for every cigarette smoked it reduces a person’s life by 10.7 minutes (AQA Biology 2008). It is treated with chemotherapy and can be diagnosed through biopsy’s and x-rays. If a person was to quit smoking it reduces the chances of lung cancer drastically, even if a person had been smoking for a considerable amount of years.