Respiratory means “of, having to do with, used in, or impacting breathing, and comes from the Latin word meaning “to breathe.” A respiratory illness is a disease that affects the respiratory system. They may also be called “respiratory diseases.”
One group of illnesses that fits in the category respiratory illness is the group that could be referred to as lung diseases. Lung diseases include a variety of issues, some of which are contagious and others of which are not. In any case, lung diseases can make breathing difficulty. As a group, lung diseases are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Among the lung disease subcategory of respiratory illnesses are Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), respiratory failure caused by fluid build-up in the lungs; asthma, a chronic condition in which the airways can become constricted; Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a group of diseases in which airflow is blocked, including bronchitis, an inflammation of the bronchial tube lining, and emphysema, a condition in which the bronchioles are destroyed; either of the two types of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer or non-small cell lung cancer; pneumonia, a lung inflammation that can be caused by bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses; tuberculosis, an infectious disease that ranges from symptomless to fatal; and whooping cough, a severe infection characterized by a cough with a distinctive breath after it. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a contagious respiratory illness of the lungs that was fatal to ten percent of the people who contracted it, appeared first in November of 2002 in China, spread through the world in six weeks, and became virtually unknown after 2004.
Another group of illnesses that fits the category of respiratory illness are upper respiratory tract infections (URIs). These include infections of the nose, throat, and sinuses, most of them caused by viruses. The ones caused by bacterial infection may require specific therapy. Illnesses of the nose include rhinitis and nasopharyngitis, another name for the “common cold.” Infections of the throat and the uvula and tonsils are called pharyngitis. Laryngitis is an infection of the larynx, while sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses and tracheitis is inflammation of the trachea. Epiglottitis, one of the most serious, is an infection of the upper part of the larynx and the supraglottis.