Hyperinflation refers to the excessive increase in lung tissues which leads to enlargement of the lungs. Hyperinflation of the lungs need a subjective interpretation as the condition could result from serious lung diseases.
However, osteoarthritis in older men can also affect the bones in the rib cage making the lungs appear inflated even for a normally functioning lung.
5 Main Causes of Hyperinflation of Lungs
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
People with obstructive pulmonary disease have increased chances of developing hyperinflation of the lungs. COPD results from co-existence of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is a progressive disease and generally gets worse with time. Unlike asthma, it is rarely reversible and may damage the lungs to such an extent that the patient may require long-term oxygen therapy or even lung transplantation.
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COPD is caused mainly due to continuous exposure to harmful gases or environmental pollutants. The gas and the noxious particles from the pollutants cause inflammation of the lungs by triggering an immune response against them. Over a period of time, the cumulative effects of these irritants can lead to permanent lung damage.
A person may develop emphysema due to smoking, exposure to environmental pollutants or genetic susceptibility. Emphysema is characterized by shortness of breath and lack of stamina. This is a slow progressive disease which damages the lung cells gradually over a period of time.
The most prominent symptom of this illness is pursed-lip breathing. Since the patient struggles to exhale completely, he pursues his lips to increase exhalation by pressure, by leaving a small opening between the lips to build pressure. Wheezing sounds heard through a stethoscope and enlargement of the chest due to hyper aeration can help in the diagnosis of the disease.
Chronic bronchitis results due to inflammation of the bronchi. Acute or chronic bronchitis results due to viral or bacterial infection in the bronchi which conduct air into the lungs. Chronic bronchitis can also result due to environmental factors and exposure to chemicals.
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It leads to increase in the size of mucous glands and increased production of goblet cells. The excessive mucous produced in the airways, narrows the airway and leads to cough and wheezing. As a result of prolonged infection and inflammation of the tissue, the bronchi walls thicken and constrict the air passage.
Over the period of time the inflammatory cells infiltrate the lungs causing considerable scarring and further thickening of the walls of the air passage. Apart from these diseases, there are several other factors which can lead to hyper inflated lungs.
Smoking and Air Pollution
Inhaling harmful gases and chemicals can lead to irritation of the lung tissues.
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The immune system responds to these irritants by producing immune cells against them and this immune response results in inflammation of the lungs.
People with a genetic tendency to produce fewer amounts of antiprotease enzymes have an increased chance of developing hyperinflated lungs. Alpha 1-antitrypsin protects the walls of the lungs from enzymes produced in response to tobacco smoke and other irritants.
An Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency can lead to increased activity of protease enzymes such as elastase and trypsin. These enzymes are produced as a result of inflammation of the affected lung tissues and in the absence of antitrypsin they can infiltrate the lung tissues and cause damage to the walls of the lungs.
In combination to these factors, auto immune diseases can also cause hyper inflammation of the lungs by acting against own body cells.