Sunday, January 30, 2011

Checking Your Lungs

Having healthy lungs is vital to your overall health. If you are not getting enough oxygen as a result of some kind of lung disorder then every area of your body suffers. Receiving an adequate amount of oxygen is necessary for your body to function properly. There are some lung disorders which are temporary and go away with time or with a course of antibiotics but there are also much more serious problems which can occur, making it difficult to function in every day life without medical assistance such as an oxygen tank or inhaler.

For this reason it is important never to take lung problems for granted. If you are having trouble breathing or exhibiting other symptoms which could point to a lung disorder then it is imperative that you seek medical attention to find out if your lungs are operating correctly. There are also some signs and symptoms that you can watch for at home in order to determine if your lungs are ok.

Monitor Your Breathing

It is important to realize that breathing should never be something that is forced or labored. It should come naturally and be done with ease. If it does not then that is a very good indication that something is not right. If you find that your breathing is painful in any way or that you are experiencing difficulty in taking in a sufficient amount of air or if you find that you run out of breath easily, there may be a problem that will require diagnostic testing and treatment. Obviously, if you are suffering from a chest cold or have just recently been sick with a condition such as bronchitis or pneumonia then it may take a little while for your lungs to fully heal. However, if any of the above mentioned problems should last more than 7 to 10 days then having a full check up of your respiratory system would be a very good idea.

Be Aware of Coughing

Coughing can be a perfectly normal sign of a minor illness such as a cold or even of an allergy of some sort but persistent coughing that lasts for more than a week or so could be cause for alarm. In addition, it is important to note what comes up when coughing or whether or not the cough seems to be more of a dry/hacking variety. It is never a good sign for you to cough up any blood, no matter how little or how much. Excessive mucus is also an indication that an infection is present as it is the bodies way of defending itself against "imposters". The presence of thick and foul tasting mucus or blood is a major red flag and should be seen to right away. Remember that mucus may be present in mild conditions such as a cold or flu but that it should never last more than a couple of weeks.

Chest Pains

If you have a serious lung problem, one of the main warning signs will be pain in your chest, either when inhaling or coughing. Anytime you have a chest cold or lung infection you will experience chest discomfort but this pain should not be severe and it certainly should not last for an extended period of time. Persistent pain, especially when accompanied by the presence of blood or mucus is a warning sign that your lungs are definitely not okay. In some cases heavy coughing can result in tearing of the lining in the lungs, this can be a very serious condition and will require medical care. It is important to note that there is a distinct difference in the type of chest pains a person with a lung disorder will experience in contrast to those that are associated with heart conditions. The difference seems to be in the fact that chest pains which are a symptom of a lung disorder will occur upon taking a deep breath or coughing.

Assess Your Habits and Family History

If you practice unhealthy habits such as smoking cigarettes, using excessive alcohol or illegal drugs then you may have a heightened risk of chronic lung problems such as emphysema, lung cancer, COPD and many other illnesses. In addition, if you have a history of any of these problems in your family you may also be considered at a greater risk for the occurrence of one or all of them. People who have a history of cancer in their family should begin early screening to be sure there is no sign of precancerous cells or other suspicious findings. Most doctors suggest screening begin at about 35 years old for smokers or people with a family history of lung cancer. It is also the best choice to quit smoking but that is for another discussion.

Diagnostic Testing

If you determine that you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms of lung distress then you will want to go to the doctor to have a battery of tests performed. The first thing that may be done during the process of triage will be to have a blood oxygen level test done. A probe is placed on the tip of your finger and the amount of oxygen you are breathing in is measured. Ideally, the result should be above 95% and anything under 90% is cause for concern. Additional testing such as x-rays or CT scans may also be done to rule out any masses such as those found in cancer or pneumonia. Once these tests are performed there may also be blood work that the doctor will order to determine your blood count to see if there is any evidence of infection.

Most lung conditions if caught and treated early enough can be arrested and managed with proper care and treatment. There are some conditions which offer a much bleaker prognosis, especially if left untreated for an extended period of time. For this reason it is important to have anything that seems unusual checked out as soon as symptoms present themselves.

Source: Health Guidance By George Cranston

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