How to Diagnose Lung Hyperinflation
Lung hyperinflation is the chronic and excessive inflation or expansion of the lungs. It can result from excess carbon dioxide being trapped in the lung or a lack of lung elasticity due to pulmonary illness. Additionally, any obstruction within the bronchial tubes or alveoli, the channels that transport air into the lung tissue, can cause hyperinflated lungs. To diagnose lung hyperinflation, be aware of its causes and symptoms, and seek a professional diagnosis.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Pay attention to changes in breathing.Does taking a breath feel difficult or painful? Do you feel that, when breathing, you are not getting enough oxygen? These sensations are not a guarantee of lung hyperinflation. They are, however, warning signs when experienced with other symptoms.
Be wary of a chronic cough.Coughing is a common side-effect of certain pulmonary illnesses as well as smoking. Lung hyperinflation leads to a chronic, wheezing cough that interrupts normal daily functions.
- If you have hyper-inflated lungs, you may have difficulty walking up hills and succumb to coughing easily. If you have a chronic cough that does not go away for two weeks, you should see a doctor for a diagnosis.
- Listen for a whistling sound when air is drawn into the lung. This can indicate reduced elasticity of the lung, a symptom of lung hyperinflation.
Watch for other changes in the body.Other changes in the body, when combined with the above symptoms, may point to lung hyperinflation. Watch for the following symptoms:
- Frequent bouts of sicknesses like bronchitis
- Weight loss
- Waking up at night
- Swollen ankles
Getting a Medical Diagnosis
Let a doctor assess your medical history and conduct a physical examination.Your doctor will make an initial assessment of your condition by gathering information about your past and present health history. Significant factors that can indicate lung hyperinflation are:
- A family history of lung conditions, like lung cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Present habits, like vigorous exercise or smoking
- Living environment, such as living in a polluted city or with a smoker
- Active medical conditions like asthma or mental health conditions like chronic anxiety
Get chest x-rays.A chest x-ray generates an image of the lungs, air passages, the heart, blood vessels, and the bones of your chest and spine. A chest x-ray can be used to gauge whether lungs are hyperinflated.
- An x-ray can show fluid and air around the lungs, signifying an underlying problem like COPD or cancer. This can be the cause of lung hyperinflation and the sooner you get the disease diagnosed the better.
- Lung hyperinflation is present when the x-ray shows the front of the fifth or sixth rib meeting the middle of your diaphragm. More than six front ribs touching your diaphragm is consistent with hyperinflation.
Get a computer tomography (CT) scan.CT scans are an imaging method that uses x-rays to produce a three-dimensional representation of the body.The pictures generated by the machine illustrate the scope of lung damage and hyperinflation.
- A CT scan can show an increase in lung size and may even show air trapped in one or both lungs. Trapped air usually appears as black on an x-ray screen.
- A special dye is sometimes used in CT scans to highlight the areas x-rayed. This is usually given by mouth, by enema, or by injection but is fairly rare for a CT scan focusing on the chest. During the scan, you'll have to wear a hospital gown and remove any items, like jewelry and eyeglasses, that may interfere with the scan.
- During a CT scan, you'll lie on a motorized table and your body will be inserted into a donut-shaped machine. A technologist will communicate with you from another room. He or she may ask you to hold your breath at certain points during the scan. The procedure is painless and usually takes around 30 minutes.
Have pulmonary function tests done.Pulmonary function tests are tests that measure breathing capacity and overall pulmonary function.To confirm a diagnosis of lung hyperinflation, two numerical values are assessed during a pulmonary function test.
- FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second): This is the amount of air that can be blown out of your lungs in the first 1 second.
- FVC (Forced Vital Capacity): This reflect the total amount of air that you can exhale.
- The normal results of FEV1/FVC ratio should be more than 70 percent. Less than this percentage indicates lung hyperinflation, since a patient with this condition cannot blow air out as fast as a healthy person does.
- During the test, a doctor will use medical instruments to measure your breath. While usually painless, you may experience some shortness of breath as it involves forced, rapid breathing. Do not smoke four to six hours before the test and do not eat a heavy meal beforehand.
Assessing Your Risk
Understand the effect of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).COPD is present when there is an obstruction in your lungs that disrupts airflow. COPD is usually treated by monitoring and controlling symptoms through a combination of medical assistance and lifestyle changes. Hyperinflation of the lungs is frequently caused by COPD. If you've previously been diagnosed with COPD, this could increase your risk for lung hyperinflation.
- To treat COPD, your doctor will recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and prescription medications. If you are a smoker, it's important you quit. Making symptoms of COPD worse by neglecting medication or continuing to smoke can increase your risk of lung hyperinflation.
Be aware of the effect of asthma.Asthma is caused by inflammation of the airways. Depending on the severity of an asthma attack, swelling can disrupt air flow to the lungs. Over time, this can result in lung hyperinflation. Treatment of asthma usually involves building an action plan with your doctor about medication, lifestyle changes, and how to manage asthma attacks when they occur. Talk to your doctor about better managing your asthma as to avoid lung hyperinflation.
Learn the effect of cystic fibrosis.Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease that may affect several organs and systems in your body. It is an inherited disorder of the exocrine gland, characterized by an abnormal production of mucus that tends to be much thicker and stickier than usual, which can plug your airways. As with anything that blocks airways, cystic fibrosis can lead to lung hyperinflation. If you have cystic fibrosis, you are at an increased risk of lung hyperinflation.
QuestionI had acute maxillary sinusitis that required antibiotics and another strong medication to treat. An x-ray of my chest shows that my lungs are over inflated. Could this be causing my upper back pain?
Internal Medicine Resident PhysicianInternal Medicine Resident PhysicianExpert AnswerLung hyperinflation does not usually cause back pain. Your question can only be answered by a review of past medical history and a physical exam. Please speak to your primary care physician.Thanks!
QuestionCan previous atrial fibrillation cause lung hyperventilation?
Internal Medicine Resident PhysicianInternal Medicine Resident PhysicianExpert AnswerThese two diseases are generally mutual exclusive. Most people who have atrial fibrillation do not experience any symptoms.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is your prognosis for a 45-year-old female with over-inflated lungs who was recently diagnosed with kephosis and pulmonary emboli?
Internal Medicine Resident PhysicianInternal Medicine Resident PhysicianExpert AnswerThis question can only be answered by a thorough review of past medical history and a physical exam. Please speak to your primary care physician.Thanks!
QuestionWould an elderly stroke victim with limited exercise capability be susceptible to hyperinflated lungs?
Family Medicine PhysicianFamily Medicine PhysicianExpert AnswerNot unless the person has COPD as well. A stroke does not cause hyperinflated lungs.Thanks!
QuestionWhat kind of doctor should I see if I have slight hyperinflation of the lungs?
Internal Medicine Resident PhysicianInternal Medicine Resident PhysicianExpert AnswerPlease speak to your primary care physician. There is no need to see any other physician at this time. Additionally, most insurances require you to be seen by a primary care doctor first.Thanks!
QuestionDoes this cause you to cough up blood?
Internal Medicine Resident PhysicianInternal Medicine Resident PhysicianExpert AnswerThis would only lead to coughing up blood if you have some type of damage to your lung architecture. For example, smoking causes COPD, but also damages the airways going to the lungs.Thanks!
QuestionAre frequent aches in my chest and upper back caused by a hyper-inflated lung?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTalk to your doctor. Take some x-rays and you can have your doctor diagnose it. The x-ray can show fluid and air around the lungs, signifying an underlying problem like COPD or cancer. Look out for more symptoms.Thanks!
QuestionCan the use of oxygen cause hyperinflation?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, it cannot, but oxygen at high concentrations for prolonged periods of time is not healthy for lung tissues. Sometimes doctors need to weigh whether continuing higher oxygen concentrations will do more harm to the patient than good. No one wants brain damage from not enough oxygen, either. What causes mechanical hyperinflation such as with ventilators (life support) is too high of an inspiratory pressure, or too large of a volume being set on the equipment. When this occurs it is called barotrauma. What causes hyperinflation in disease processes can possibly be COPD or emphysema due to floppy smaller airways, which trap air inside of the lungs.Thanks!
QuestionIf I have lung hyperinflation, can I learn how to swim?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you have lung hyperinflation, it is best not to swim, but if you want to swim, just make sure that you don't dive, do handstands, or forward rolls.Thanks!
QuestionMy family member has just been diagnosed with hyperinflation. What precautions should I take?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should ask their doctor about this. You shouldn't really need to do much of anything though, beyond listen to your family member about their condition and help them when necessary.Thanks!
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Video: How to Diagnose Lung Hyperinflation
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