When to contact your health care provider about your lung health

Are you over 40 and currently smoke or have smoked (tobacco, cannabis, vaping products) in the past? If so, and you noticed shortness of breath on exertion and/or a cough that has lasted longer than three weeks, you should discuss your symptoms with your health care provider. Request a lung function test, a low-dose CT Scan or chest X-ray to see if you have a lung disease.

Did you know?

Interstitial Lung Diseases (ILDs) are more common in New Brunswick than in many other provinces with at least six of them commonly diagnosed here. The tissue around the alveoli (air sacks) of the lungs become progressively more damaged over time. Although long-term exposure to toxins in the air you breathe is associated with many cases of ILD, many cases appear to have no known cause. Early detection and treatment can make it easier for people with ILD to breathe easier and enjoy a more productive and enjoyable life.
Symptoms: Progressive shortness of breath and this is often first ignored. A cough, which is usually dry and doesn’t bring up mucus. Weight loss, most often in people with Cryptogenic Organizing Pneumonia (COP) or Bronchiolitis Obliterans with Organizing Pneumonia (BOOP). In later stages there will be enlarged fingertips called “clubbing".

Asthma causes you airways to temporarily narrow so that it is harder to breathe. Asthma attacks can be triggered by exposure to things you are allergic to, cold air, exercise or stress. There are treatments available and advice that can greatly reduce the number and severity of asthma attacks.
Symptoms: wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

Bronchiectasis damages the tiny hairs (cilia) that line the inside of your airways. Damaged cilia can't do their job of sweeping dirt and mucus out of your lungs. With bronchiectasis, your airways widen and stretch out. In some places the airways are so stretched out they form little pockets. Germs, dust and mucus collect in these pockets and get stuck. After a while your airways get infected and the infections keep coming back.
Symptoms: Symptoms include a cough that never goes away and increased production of sputum, which is also known as phlegm. Some patients have frequent pneumonia. As your lung function decreases, you may also have shortness of breath and find you're increasingly tired. Advanced disease can lead to heart failure.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is often caused by smoking or workplace exposures but can occur in people with a genetic condition. This is a term that is used for both emphysema (which damages the alveoli) and chronic bronchitis (which damages the cilia - small hairs that help remove mucus from your airways). COPD gradually worsens over time but can be treated with medications, physical therapy, and life-style changes.
Symptoms: Shortness of breath - especially during physical activities, wheezing, chest tightness, a chronic cough that may produce mucus (ie sputum that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish), frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy, unintended weight loss (in later stages), and swelling of the ankles, feet or legs.

Lung Cancer is most often caused by smoking. Radon exposure is the second highest cause of lung cancer. Early detection and targeted therapy improves the outlook for this disease.
Symptoms: A new cough that doesn't go away, coughing up blood - even a small amount, shortness of breath, chest pain, hoarseness, losing weight without trying, bone pain, and headaches.

If you have symptoms, contact your health provider. If you have additional questions about your lung health or for more information on Radon, contact the New Brunswick Lung Association at 1-800-565-5864.

Page Last Updated: 21/06/2021