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List of Diseases of the Respiratory System

author image Lisabetta DiVita
Lisabetta Divita is a physician whose love for writing flourished while she was exposed to all facets of the medical field during her training. Her writings are currently featured in prominent medical magazines and various online publications. She holds a doctorate in medicine, a master's in biomedicine, and a Bachelor of Science in biology from Boston College.
List of Diseases of the Respiratory System
List of Diseases of the Respiratory System Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

The respiratory system is composed of the trachea (windpipe), a set of lungs and its blood vessels and bronchioles (smaller airways). Sometimes, an infection can invade the respiratory system. In some cases, an anatomical problem is to blame for respiratory difficulties. Generally, problems with the respiratory tract can lead to diseases that cause trouble breathing.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea refers to a condition in which a person stops breathing while sleeping. According to MedlinePlus, the brain actually interferes with the signaling necessary for the respiratory muscles to manage breathing.

Other symptoms of central sleep apnea include restlessness during sleep, morning headaches, sleepiness during the daytime and chronic fatigue. Central sleep apnea may also include trouble swallowing, changes in the voice and numbness or tingling of the body, especially if sleep apnea is due to a problem with the nervous system.

MedlinePlus says central sleep apnea sufferers may have problems with the brain stem, the structure located at the back of the brain. Certain medical problems such as encephalitis ( a brain infection), a stroke, morbid obesity and medications like narcotic analgesics (pain relievers) may lead to central sleep apnea.

Treatment for central sleep apnea involves receiving oxygen therapy or using a nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or a BiPAP (bilateral positive airway pressure). Both the CPAP and BiPAP are breathing devices worn over the nose and mouth while sleeping. They provide air pressure, so that apnea spells are decreased. Sometimes, drugs can be used to promote breathing.


The Mayo Clinic says epiglottitis is a potentially fatal condition in which the tissue that covers the windpipe (epiglottis) is swollen and actually prevents air from entering the body.

Specific epiglottitis symptoms include a fever, trouble swallowing and difficulty breathing. Epiglottitis can also lead to hoarseness of the voice, drooling and blue lips or skin.

Certain bacteria such as the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria can lead to epiglottitis. Other bacteria that can lead to this condition include streptoccoccus pneumonia, streptococcus A, B and C, candida albicans or varicella zoster. Sometimes, smoking heroin, swallowing an object or swallowing a caustic chemical may lead to epiglottitis, says the Mayo Clinic.

Treatment for epiglottitis includes securing a breathing tube in order to get enough oxygen. Sometimes, a tracheotomy (creating a hole in the lower throat region to help in breathing) may be necessary. Intravenous antibiotics can be given to treat the bacteria causing epiglottitis.


Pneumonia refers to a condition in which the lung becomes inflamed. According to MedlinePlus, symptoms of pneumonia include shortness of breath, a cough, a fever, shaking chills and a headache. Pneumonia can also cause chest pain with inspiration (breathing in), excessive sweating (diaphoresis) and low energy.

Bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus or viruses such as the respiratory syncytial virus can lead to pneumonia. MedlinePlus says some risk factors for getting pneumonia include smoking cigarettes, living in a nursing home, suffering from diabetes or cirrhosis and having trouble swallowing.

Treating pneumonia involves receiving intravenous fluid and antibiotics, such as levofloxacin, amoxicillin or cefuroxime, to destroy the bacteria. Drinking fluids, resting and taking over-the-counter cough medications or pain relievers are additional ways to manage pneumonia.

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