8 of the Most Common Lung Diseases in Women


There are many different lung diseases that vary in severity, but one thing is certain: the number of women developing and dying from lung diseases is rapidly rising in the U.S. With early diagnosis comes early treatment which can help prevent the disease from progressing too quickly.

Here are some of the most common lung diseases affecting women according to womenshealth.gov.

Asthma is a condition where the bronchial tubes in the lungs become inflamed and sensitive. The airways then become irritated by cigarette smoke, mold, chemical sprays, and air pollution. They can also react to respiratory infections and allergens like dust mites and pollen.

Asthma causes difficulty breathing, as many patients complain of coughing, wheezing, and chest tightening.

Women are more prone to developing asthma and are more likely to die from the condition.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD) is an umbrella term for two lung conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD affects the bronchial tubes and causes permanent inflammation which can lead to the production of excess mucus as well as difficulties breathing. The excess mucus generally results in a persistent cough and can also leave the patient more susceptible to infections. Emphysema affects the air sacs at the end of the bronchial tubes, meaning less oxygen gets into the bloodstream, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.

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Smoking cigarettes is the main cause of COPD and it’s thought to affect women more than men. Like asthma, women are also more likely to die of COPD.

MORE: Seven common questions about Ofev

Lung Cancer
Lung cancer kills more women in the U.S. than any other type of cancer. There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer usually spreads more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer. Both types are usually linked to smoking.

Pulmonary Emboli
Pulmonary emboli are blood clots that form in other parts of the body (often the legs) and then travel through the body, becoming stuck in the lungs. Small blood clots in the lungs can cause breathing problems and reduce the oxygen flow to the bloodstream. Large blood clots in the lungs can be fatal.

Women are more at risk of developing blood clots if they take contraceptive pills or hormone treatment for menopause, are pregnant or have given birth recently.

Pulmonary Fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis is a rare lung disease where the tissue in the lungs becomes scarred over time and stiffens. This inhibits the lungs’ ability to supply oxygen to the bloodstream. There are several reasons why a woman develops pulmonary fibrosis including radiation therapy and chemotherapy for breast cancer, other lung diseases, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. If no known cause is determined, it is referred to as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Pulmonary Hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension is a lung disease where the blood pressure in the lungs becomes dangerously high. This elevated pressure forces the right side of the heart to work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood back into the lungs. This can lead to heart failure if not treated.

There are many reasons why a woman may develop pulmonary hypertension including childhood infections, other lung conditions, and autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma.

MORE: Why pulmonary rehabilitation is key to pulmonary fibrosis treatment.

Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (or LAM), is a rare disease that can affect the lungs, kidneys and lymphatic system. It mainly strikes women, particularly those in their 30s and 40s. Muscle-like cells grow in the lungs and form cysts that can destroy healthy lung tissue. Symptoms include breathlessness, coughing, chest pain, coughing up blood and lung collapse.  (Source: National Institutes of Health)

Influenza and Pneumonia
Each winter there are many cases of the common lung conditions influenza and pneumonia. Influenza is a respiratory viral infection which causes short-term damage to the lungs. Pneumonia could be either a bacterial infection or viral infection where there is a build-up of fluid in the lungs that inhibits the amount of oxygen that can reach the bloodstream. Most healthy people get over these infections in a week or so, but for those with compromised health (the very young and the elderly), the infection can become life-threatening. It’s important they consult their doctors about yearly vaccinations.

MORE: Five tips to help prevent lung infections.

Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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  1. Jeff Berryman says:

    My girlfriend had pneumonia about 3 months ago but after 3 weeks in the hospital she was cleared to go. She then starting coughing alot feeling sick with hot and mostly cold chills but has a shiny green film covering the walls of both lungs. The doctors have done everything they know to do but still have no answer for what it is. Any help or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    • Kate says:

      National Jewish in Denver is the premier location for respiratory illness and disorders. Depending on where you are you may want to find out what The Cleveland Clinic (Ohio) or Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota or the Arizona group can offer you. It’s heartbreaking to have a drawn out process to just get to a diagnosis before even looking at treatment options.

    • Sha says:

      So sad , my mum had been coughing and being sick for almost a year but everytime she had gone to her gp they just said it was something else, until last new years eve she went into hospital with phenomena and that’s when they did tests and had found that her lungs were scarred. They should have done this at the first place but failed to send her to x rays or scans

    • Rose says:

      My friend has green liquid coming out her breast. This was found out too be yeast infection. Not sure it will help you but thought I would mention it. Hope it helps,

  2. rohit singh says:

    some problem in my grand mother lung some enfection in right artilarey culcture report mention in lung problem no deseas t.v canser .asthma,not mentions in lung . but some enfection in lung. i dont know

  3. Akinbobola olayinka says:

    Pressure in head with funny like movements with on and off headache, body temperature and difficulty inhaling.

  4. Martha Leonette says:

    Definitely the National Jewish Health Center. Took seven years and 9 doctors to find that I had NTM – MAC. By then my lungs were pretty much severely damaged. Continue to find a good doctor to ensure your girlfriend is fine. Seven years destroyed my lungs. I was blessed to find a doctor in the Alexandria VA area that recognized what I had and was helpful in getting me an appointment with Dr. Charles Daley, National Jewish Health. Do not wait.

  5. Carol Smith says:

    After 8 years of coughing and spitting up white lumps of phlem and losing my voice from time to time, my doctor ordered a bronchoscopy for me. He did a culture which showed I had MAC Pneumonia. During this 8 years, I saw 8 different doctors before I found out I had this lung disease. I just found this out about 2 weeks ago. I was put on 3 antibiotics for a year and am scheduled to see an Infectious Disease Specialist.

  6. Lelane says:

    Hi hope you can give me some advise i have been diagnosed with asthma 22 years ago and its always been the under control.till a about a year a go drs suspected tb as i had most of the signs turns out i only had a sever lung infection. Now for about a month i have having tightness in my chest, dificulting breathing, extremley pain in shoulders, back and neck. Then they suspected heart disease and now the dr says he thinks it might be pleurisy does anybody have some advise?

    • S peters says:

      I have gone through these signs for the last 35 years and are getting worse but I take aspirin only when pain gets bad. I am 68 years old and doctors still says it is all in my head they are quacks as I was born a blue baby/premature weighing 4lbs in the 1951 had and have bronchitis/pneumonia/double pneumonia every year as my lungs were not developed, my grandfather saved my life as doctor who brought me into this world said I would live only till 50 years old but I have beaten the odds proved them quack doctors wrong as I believe god can take me now whenever, I live in Canada.

  7. chowdhury says:

    Lung disease mostly a common disease but sometimes its can be lung cancer.Everyone should know and aware about these diseases.This post can be solution to better understand

  8. Dreedree says:

    I’m having symptoms where I’m always short of breath chest pain and my stomach clinches when I’m Breathing out always low on energy I hope they find out what’s going on I go have a ct on my chest hopefully they find out what the problem is….

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