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Hyperinflation of the lungs is a term used to describe excessive, large or heightened increase in lung tissues. Hyper in the medical field means excessive. Understanding the causes and the symptoms of lung hyperinflation helps prompt individuals to seek treatment. The severity and symptoms of hyperinflated lungs will also be determined by age (in most cases, the condition affects adults between the ages of 30 and 70), cause of the condition and any underlying factors such as illnesses or disease processes that accompany it.
Most cases of hyperinflation of the lung are caused by either asthma or emphysema. According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 95 percent of cases are caused by emphysema, where the air sacs in the lungs are gradually damaged and don’t function properly, resulting in chronic shortness of breath. The reason the lungs become overinflated is because air gets trapped in the smaller air pathways that are present in lung tissues. Despite the likelihood that hyperinflation is caused by emphysema, individuals are cautioned not to self-diagnose and to undergo tests to determine a diagnosis.
People diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are also prone to hyperinflation of the lung. COPD is often common in individuals diagnosed with chronic bronchitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, COPD is one of the leading causes of death around the world. COPD is diagnosed when a person has a cough for a few months a year for at least two years in a row and results in lung or respiratory infections; a productive cough that brings up a yellowish sputum; and, in later stages, a very noticeable shortness of breath. COPD is caused mainly by narrowed bronchial tubes.
Another common cause of COPD is a condition known as asthmatic bronchitis, which results from airway muscle fibers constricted or tightened by chronic asthma. Asthma is a condition that causes airways to narrow, similar to the symptoms produced by bronchitis. While this condition is not nearly as common as chronic bronchitis or emphysema in causing lung inflation, it does occur.
Smoking, especially long-term smoking, can cause serious and irreparable damage to the lungs. Cigarette smoke, air pollution and even second-hand smoke are among the leading causes of lung damage and produces over-inflation of lung tissues due to constant irritation. The Mayo Clinic states that almost all cases of emphysema and COPD are caused by smoking.