A nagging cough or wheeze may not register much during the course of our daily lives, but it’s very important to pay attention to even mild symptoms. Some people think that having trouble breathing is just a symptom of getting older, but these symptoms could be the first signs of lung damage, including asthma and lung cancer.
Knowing the early warning signs of lung damage can help you receive treatment and recover before the damage becomes severe or even life-threatening. If you experience any of the following warning signs, make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible because early detection could help save your life.
A cough that you have had for eight weeks or longer is considered a chronic cough.
A persistent cough is an early symptom that should alert you that something is wrong with your respiratory system.
If you are coughing up blood, it may be coming from within your lungs or upper respiratory tract.
Wherever the blood is coming from, coughing up blood is a sign of a health problem.
Trouble Breathing or Shortness of Breath
It’s not normal to experience shortness of breath unless you are exercising.
Labored or difficult breathing is a warning sign of lung damage.
Noisy breathing or wheezing is also a sign that something unusual is blocking your lungs’ airways or making them too narrow.
Chronic Chest Pain
Unexplained chest pains that last for more than a month are considered chronic.
If your chest pain worsens when you breathe in or cough, consider this a warning sign of lung damage.
Chronic Mucus Production
Mucus, also called sputum or phlegm, is produced by your airways as a defense mechanism against infections or other irritants.
If you have produced an unusual amount of mucus for over a month or longer, this could indicate lung damage.
What Causes Lung Damage?
Common causes of lung damage include:
- Smoking. Inhaling smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes is the number one cause of lung damage. If you live or work with a smoker, try to avoid secondhand smoke.
- Air pollution. Recent studies have indicated that some air pollution, like car exhaust fumes, may contribute to asthma, COPD, lung cancer, lung disease, and other types of lung damage.
- Radon. Radon, a colorless, odorless gas, is present in many homes and is a recognized cause of lung damage. You can check for radon in your home with a kit available at many hardware stores.
- Asbestos. Asbestos is a natural mineral fiber that is commonly used in insulation, fireproofing materials, car brakes, and other products. Asbestos may give off small fibers that are too small to be seen but can easily be inhaled. Asbestos harms the lung cells by causing lung scarring and lung cancer. Asbestos can cause mesothelioma – a cancer that forms over the tissues covering the lungs and many other organs in the body.
Talking to Your Doctor
If you are experiencing one or more of the warning signs on this list, prepare a visit to your healthcare provider by:
- Taking a copy of your medical records with you
- Make a list of all the medications you are using now, including prescribed and over-the-counter medications.
- Make a list of all the healthcare providers you currently see and why you see them
- Make a list of the symptoms you are having and note which ones are bothering you the most. Be sure to write down when they started, if they have worsened, or what you have done (if anything) to improve or make them better. (BlackDoctor.org by Ty McDuffey)