Diagnosis and Treatment of Breathing Problems
Dr. Michael Weiss and his experienced team can perform a wide range of diagnostic tests to identify the underlying causes of a number of breathing problems, and recommend appropriate treatment. Contact us today at our Baltimore, MD-area practice to schedule an appointment.
Common Causes of Breathing Problems and Their Treatments
There are several factors that can cause difficulty breathing:
Allergies are the result of your body’s overreaction to a foreign body. The immune system is designed to identify and eliminate anything it does not recognize. While important in fighting off viruses and bacteria, this reaction is less helpful when targeting allergens such as mold, dust, pet dander, pollen, or perfume. Allergens can include materials both environmental and chemical. When exposed to an allergen, our bodies produce histamine, which is responsible for most of the symptoms we associate with allergies: headaches, sneezing, watery eyes, congestion, or a scratchy throat.
Our team can easily diagnose an allergy with a physical exam or skin test. If an allergy is the source of your breathing troubles, antihistamines and nasal decongestants are reliable treatments. If the case is more severe, you may need allergy shots to build your immunity to the allergen.
Many types of disease can cause difficulty breathing. While symptoms can overlap, the treatment must be targeted to the root cause. Some of the most common diseases resulting in breathing trouble include:
- Sinusitis: When the sinus tissue behind the upper cheeks and nose is infected, the tissue often becomes inflamed and swollen. Causes include the common cold, fungal buildup, and anatomical abnormalities. Depending on the source of the problem, sinusitis can be treated with decongestants, steroids, antibiotics, prescription medicine, or, in some cases, surgery.
- Asthma: Asthma sufferers have a hypersensitivity that can trigger spasms in their lungs and block airways. Diagnosis is typically based on your medical and family histories and a physical exam. There is no cure for asthma. However, our team can help patients manage short-term flare-ups with inhalers, and long-term management can be achieved with corticosteroids.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): COPD refers to any condition that affects gas exchange in the lungs. The most common are emphysema and chronic bronchitis – or, oftentimes, both at once. COPD is usually diagnosed with pulmonary function tests that measure how efficiently you breathe, and chest x-rays that reveal any blockages. Like asthma, there is no cure, but COPD can be treated with medication and breathing therapies. In severe cases, our team can refer you to a lung specialist for more in-depth treatment.
- Growths or tumors: Growths in your nasal passage, mouth, throat, or lungs can severely constrict your airways. Our team can identify and diagnose these issues with a nasal endoscopy, in which a flexible tube with a light and camera is inserted through the nose to examine your nasal passage. If any growths or tumors found are cancerous, we will refer you to an oncology professional.
Breathing is heavily dependent on a clear air passage. If anatomical abnormalities are obstructing these pathways, breathing becomes much harder. Most of these problems can be identified using nasal endoscopy. Causes include:
- A history of nasal trauma: Damage to your nose can disrupt the size or position of your nasal tissues, affecting how much air can pass. Temporary nasal stents or surgery can widen the passage.
- Deviated septum: The septum separates your two nasal passages. If it is crooked or bent, it can block the flow of air. If severe, a simple outpatient surgical procedure can straighten the septum.
- Nasal Valve Collapse (NVC): Sometimes the nose collapses slightly when inhaling, either because of inflammation or poorly formed tissue. If inflammation is the cause, then anti-inflammatory agents and antibiotics can resolve the issue. If the problem is mechanical, surgical grafts can strengthen the tissue.
- Turbinate hypertrophy: The turbinates are curled bone structures on the sidewalls of your nasal passage. If they are inflamed or grow too large, then can block airflow. Depending on whether the cause is inflammatory or mechanical, anti-inflammatory agents or surgery can help correct the issue.