Conditions Treated


Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by airway inflammation, bronchial tube spasms, episodes of airflow obstruction, and sometimes excess mucus. Airways swell and become narrowed, causing a variety of symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing

Symptoms vary from person to person. People with asthma sometimes are more prone to other health issues, such as colds, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia.

Genetics, environmental factors (e.g., allergens, household chemicals, air pollution), and lifestyle (e.g., vaping, smoking) may cause or exacerbate asthma. For some people, exercise can induce asthma attacks.

The disease can develop at any stage of life. Diagnostic measures to test for asthma and assess its severity include spirometry, pulse oximetry, and chest radiography.

A variety of treatments may help reduce asthma symptoms. Because severe asthma attacks can be fatal, it’s critical for patients to work with a doctor who can advise on recognizing warning signs and what to do in an emergent situation.


Bronchiectasis is an uncommon lung disease involving distortion (permanent widening) of one or more bronchi, the lungs’ main air passages. 

Usually, bronchiectasis is caused by repeat infections or inflammation of the airways. As airways become damaged, the lungs gradually lose their ability to clear mucus, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter them. Other causes of bronchiectasis include cystic fibrosis, certain autoimmune disorders, allergic lung diseases, and certain cancers (like leukemia).

The main symptom is chronic cough with thick, foul-smelling sputum. Other signs might include:

  • Bad breath
  • Blood after coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath (usually worse with physical exertion) and wheezing
  • Low grade fever

Various tests and diagnostic procedures may be used to confirm bronchiectasis. Examples include chest CT scan, chest x-rays, antitrypsin blood test, CBC (complete blood count) blood test, sputum culture, genetic testing, and lung function testing.

Medications — such as antibiotics to treat infections, bronchodilators to open airways, and expectorants to loosen and thin sputum — are used to manage bronchiectasis. In severe cases, surgery might be recommended.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. It occurs when the brain doesn’t send signals properly to the muscles that control a person’s breathing. Certain medical issues can cause the disorder — heart failure, brainstem issues or infections, stroke, or cervical spine conditions. Central sleep apnea is different from obstructive sleep apnea (when a narrowed or blocked upper airway interferes with breathing). 

Some of the common symptoms of central sleep apnea include:

  • Abnormal breathing patterns while sleeping (with episodes of not breathing)
  • Sudden awakening with shortness of breath
  • Difficulty remaining asleep 
  • Snoring
  • Headaches in the morning 
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Problems concentrating 

A sleep study may be used to confirm the disorder. A physical exam and various tests (such as an echocardiogram, lung function testing, MRI, and blood tests) may be used to diagnose the underlying medical condition causing central sleep apnea. Treatment usually centers on addressing the condition causing the apnea. Certain devices that aid breathing may be used – for example, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure). Treatment might also involve medications that stimulate breathing or oxygen treatments. 

Cheyne-Stokes Respirations

Cheyne-Stokes respiration is a breathing disorder characterized by an abnormal breathing pattern that alternates heavy, deep breaths (hyperventilation) and shallow breaths or no breathing (apnea). This form of periodic breathing is rare. It usually occurs at night and might be associated with central sleep apnea, primarily in patients with congestive heart failure or stroke. 

Symptoms other than the waxing-waning breathing pattern might include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Excessive sleepiness during the day
  • Fatigue
  • Labored breathing
  • Sudden coughing episodes

Diagnosing Cheyne-Stokes respirations usually involves a sleep study. Also, various tests (such as an echocardiogram, lung function testing, MRI, and blood tests) may be used to determine the underlying cause.  To help restore a more normal breathing pattern, healthcare professionals may recommend oxygen therapy or a CPAP device (to keep the airway open). Doctors will also focus on treating the medical condition that is causing Cheyne-Stokes breathing.

Chronic Bronchitis

Bronchitis, an infection causing inflammation of the bronchial tubes’ lining, interferes with transporting air to and from the lungs. The condition can be acute (a.k.a., common chest cold), with improvement beginning in about 10 days. However, chronic bronchitis, an ongoing irritation of the bronchial tubes, has more serious effects and requires medical evaluation.

Several symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:

  • Coughing (with production of discolored mucus)
  • Chest tightness
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low-grade fever
  • Chills

Recurring chronic bronchitis is considered a type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which makes breathing increasingly difficult over time.

Cigarette smoking (and breathing second-hand smoke) is the most common cause. Environmental factors such as dust, air pollutants, and toxic fumes might also aggravate the condition. People with compromised immune systems or gastric reflux have a greater risk of developing the infection. Left untreated, chronic bronchitis may lead to pneumonia. Diagnosis typically includes review of a person’s medical history, lung function testing, chest x-ray and CT scan, and blood tests. No cure exists, but lifestyle changes, medications (e.g., bronchodilators, antibiotics), pulmonary rehabilitation, and oxygen therapy may help manage the disease.

Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Circadian rhythm disorders are conditions that interfere with the normal sleep-wake cycle. They may present as difficulty falling asleep, waking up often during the night, waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep, or waking up too early. 

Types of circadian rhythm disorders include:

  • Irregular sleep-wake rhythm 
  • Delayed sleep-wake phase
  • Advanced sleep-wake phase
  • Non-24-hour sleep-wake syndrome 
  • Shift work disorder
  • Jet lag

Symptoms can vary. Common signs are: 

  • Chronic daytime tiredness 
  • Difficulty falling asleep at bedtime
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Poor mood 
  • Difficulty concentrating

Various methods may be used to diagnose circadian rhythm disorders.

  • Physical exam
  • Having the patient keep a sleep diary to track the sleep patterns and schedules in their home environment
  • Sleep studies to evaluate sleep-wake cycles
  • Brain imaging studies

It’s important to identify and treat circadian rhythm disorders. Chronically disrupted sleep can put individuals at greater risk for long-term health problems (e.g., weakened immune system, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, metabolic issues, and mood disorders).

Treatment depends on the type of circadian rhythm disorder. Several possibilities include:

  • Medications to help adjust the sleep-wake cycle
  • Bright light therapy
  • Behavioral and lifestyle therapy
  • Chronotherapy


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD, encompasses a group of lung diseases that worsen over time and make breathing difficult.

The two most common types are emphysema and chronic bronchitis — and many people with COPD suffer from both conditions.

Lung problems that restrict airflow and cause COPD include:

  • Airways and air sacs lose elasticity.
  • The walls of the airways thicken and become inflamed.
  • The walls between the air sacs have been destroyed.
  • Airways produce excess mucus and become clogged.

Generally, COPD stems from long-term, frequent exposure to inhaled irritants, such as tobacco smoke, air pollution, or chemical fumes and dust in the workplace. Other risk factors include age, genetics, and having asthma.

These symptoms may be a sign of COPD:

  • Wheezing or a whistling sound when breathing
  • Shortness of breath (made worse with physical activity)
  • Frequent coughing or chronic cough with a lot of mucus
  • Chest tightness
  • Lack of energy

Diagnosing COPD involves a review of the patient’s medical and family history and various tests (e.g., CT scan, chest x-ray, blood tests, lung function test).  

COPD has no cure. However, medicines and other treatments, pulmonary rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms. Severe cases of COPD may require surgery.


COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). Coronaviruses are a family of infectious viruses that cause various respiratory illnesses — from generally mild (like the common cold) to serious (like SARS). 

In 2019, the novel coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China. The first cases of COVID-19 were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December that year. In March 2020, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.

COVID-19 is mainly spread through the air, more often in enclosed spaces than outdoors. Although not as likely, people can become infected by touching their face after touching a surface with the virus on it. 

Symptoms (and their severity) can vary from one individual to the next. Generally, early signs might include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Feeling Tired
  • Loss of taste or smell

Other signs:

  • Shortness of breath or chest discomfort
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chills

Patients have reported other symptoms as well. Diagnosis is confirmed or ruled out via a COVID-19 test.

People with existing medical conditions are more at risk of serious illness. While the risk of COVID-19 complications appears to increase with age, younger people can also become significantly ill. 

The CDC offers recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Vaccination, mask-wearing, and social distancing have been the mainstays of prevention. Several treatments for the disease include antiviral medication, steroids, monoclonal antibodies, and therapies to address disease complications.

COVID Long Hauler

While many people recover fully from COVID-19 within three to four weeks after contracting the virus, some experience prolonged reactions even after their initial recovery. Individuals who no longer test positive for COVID-19 but suffer from lingering symptoms have become known as “COVID long haulers.” They battle what many call “long COVID-19” or “post-COVID syndrome.”

The symptoms, which can vary from person to person, may last for months on end. Several of the most common problems include:

  • Chronic fatigue, exhaustion
  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rash

Some COVID-19 long haulers have also reported new or increased depression and anxiety. 

Treatments for long COVID symptoms depend on the individual’s symptoms, health condition, and other factors. 

Emphysema is a type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The disease develops over time as the lung’s air sacs (alveoli) and the walls between them become damaged. As more and more air sacs are destroyed, the lungs become less efficient at moving oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of the body. This makes breathing increasingly difficult.


Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing that produces a considerable amount of mucous
  • Wheezing or whistling sound when breathing
  • Chest tightness

Emphysema is typically caused by long-term exposure to inhaled irritants, such as tobacco smoke, air pollution, and chemical fumes in the workplace.

Many people with emphysema get colds and other respiratory infections frequently. Severe cases can result in weight loss, leg weakness, and swelling of the legs, feet, or ankles.

To diagnose the disease, health care providers review patients’ medical (and family) history and conduct tests (such as chest x-rays, electrocardiograms, blood tests, and pulmonary function tests). No cure exists for emphysema, but treatments (like bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory medications and oxygen therapy) can help manage symptoms. In extreme cases, surgery may be performed to remove diseased lung tissue.

Idiopathic Hypersomnia

This uncommon sleep disorder has no clear cause. People with idiopathic hypersomnia feel excessively sleepy during the day (even after a long night’s sleep and naps), and they may be difficult to awaken from sleep. Some individuals with this disorder sleep significantly more hours than is considered normal. 

Although this condition is similar to narcolepsy in some ways, it is different in that it usually doesn’t involve episodes of suddenly falling asleep or cataplexy (losing muscle control temporarily).

To diagnose this condition and rule out others, healthcare professionals will review the patient’s medical history, conduct a physical exam, schedule sleep tests, and possibly have the individual keep a sleep diary to track day-to-day sleep patterns.

With no known cause of idiopathic hypersomnia, treatment aims at reducing symptoms. Doctors may prescribe stimulant medications to help the patient feel more awake during the day and suggest lifestyle or behavioral changes (e.g., avoiding alcohol or certain medicines that cause drowsiness).

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

In pulmonary fibrosis, lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred over time, making it stiff and thick. As the condition progresses and lungs lose their elasticity, patients experience worsening shortness of breath. 

Causes of pulmonary fibrosis include underlying diseases that inflame or scar the lungs, connective tissue disorders, and environmental irritants. The condition is considered “idiopathic” when there’s no apparent cause.

Medications and some therapies may help alleviate the symptoms of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and slow its progression, but lung damage from the disease is irreversible. Some patients may be candidates for lung transplant surgery. Health care professionals use various tests — such as pulmonary function testing, imaging tests, and lung biopsies — to diagnose the condition.


Insomnia, having trouble falling or staying asleep, is one of the most common sleep disorders. It can be either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic).   

Acute insomnia lasts for days or several weeks. It commonly happens when someone is under a lot of stress or has experienced a traumatic event.

Generally, insomnia is considered chronic when it lasts for a month or longer. Long-term insomnia may occur because of underlying medical conditions or taking medications (or other substances, like caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco) that interfere with sleep. 

Some risk factors for developing insomnia include:

  • Being under a lot of emotional stress
  • Having frequent work schedule changes
  • Leading an inactive lifestyle
  • Traveling across time zones

Insomnia can cause individuals to:

  • Feel drowsy most of the time
  • Feel anxious and depressed
  • Have difficulty concentrating and paying attention
  • Have memory problems

Identifying insomnia might involve a physical exam, having the patient keep a sleep diary that doctors can review to assess sleep habits, and sleep studies. Treatment will depend on what’s causing the person’s insomnia. Healthcare professionals may recommend lifestyle changes to promote healthy sleep habits, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medications to help restore normal sleep patterns.

Lung Tumors – Benign and Malignant

Lung tumors are abnormal growths of tissue in the lungs or the airways leading to the lungs. Masses or nodules may be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant),

Benign Lung Tumors

Benign tumors, such as adenomas and hamartomas, don’t usually pose a significant health risk. A few of the possible causes include birth defects, an abscess, or inflammation from certain infections or diseases. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarse voice

Physicians monitor benign growths for changes, but generally, these non-cancerous tumors do not require treatment or removal. To diagnose benign lung tumors and rule out cancer, doctors may order a variety of tests, including CT scan, PET scan, and tissue biopsy.

Malignant Lung Tumors

Cancerous growths that begin in the lungs may spread to other parts of the body, especially if not diagnosed early enough or left untreated. People who smoke (or have long-term exposure to second-hand smoke) have an increased risk of lung cancer. However, the disease can strike non-smokers, too. Inhalation of radon, asbestos, and other environmental carcinogens also puts individuals at risk. 

Patients may not experience any symptoms at all during the earliest stages of the disease. As lung cancer progresses, it may present as:

  • Chronic cough (possibly accompanied by coughing up blood)
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarse voice
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bone pain

Small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer are the two major categories of malignant lung disease. Chest x-rays, tissue biopsy, sputum analysis, and other tests may be used for diagnosis and assessment of how far the disease has progressed. Some treatments to reduce or remove cancerous lung tumors include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgery.


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by four primary symptoms:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness and periods of falling asleep without warning (even while performing normal activities)
  • Sudden and brief loss of muscle tone (cataplexy) — typically, involuntary head nod and slurred speech (not all narcolepsy patients experience these issues)
  • Hallucinations when falling asleep or waking up
  • Sleep paralysis (an inability to move or speak for a short period when going from sleep to wakefulness)

Narcolepsy patients sometimes have other sleep disorders, too, such as restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea. 

Often, what causes narcolepsy is unknown. In the type of narcolepsy with cataplexy, low levels of the neurochemical hypocretin, which regulates REM sleep, have been detected. Genetics may play a role in who develops the disorder. 

Diagnosing the condition may involve tracking a patients’ sleep patterns for a period of time and conducting sleep tests to evaluate brain, heart, muscle, eye, and breathing activity during sleep.

No cure exists for narcolepsy, but various medications may be used to help patients stay awake during the day, reduce hallucinations, and control cataplexy. Lifestyle changes might also be recommended to facilitate more regular sleep patterns. 

Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

This breathing disorder affects some people diagnosed with obesity. Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS) results in low oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels in the blood. 

The cause is not fully known. It may happen when extra fat in the neck, chest, and abdominal areas make it difficult to breathe or from a problem with how the brain controls breathing. It’s important to have OHS treated because it can lead to serious complications, such as respiratory failure, high blood pressure in the lungs, or right heart failure.

Some symptoms of OHS include:

  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Daytime sleepiness or sluggishness
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness even after minimal effort
  • Bluish color lips, fingers, toes, or skin 

Diagnosing OHS usually begins with a physical exam to evaluate weight, height, and BMI (body mass index). Doctors may also use a chest x-ray, CT scan, echocardiogram, lung function tests, sleep studies, and blood tests to identify OHS. 

Treatment of OHS focuses on breathing assistance, such as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) machines and oxygen therapy. In severe cases, patients may need tracheostomy surgery to create an opening in the neck to aid breathing. A doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes or suggest weight loss surgery to get the individual to a healthy weight. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

People with this common condition repeatedly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. This typically happens when throat muscles temporarily relax and obstruct airflow. 

The most common symptom is loud snoring. Others include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Sudden awakening and gasping for air 
  • Morning headaches 
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
  • Trouble concentrating

While the condition can happen to anyone, certain factors increase a person’s risk.

  • Being male, overweight, or an older adult
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Narrowed airways
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Family history 
  • Drinking alcohol or using sedatives

If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and other serious health conditions.

Diagnosis may involve a physical exam, review of the patient’s medical history, and sleep studies to monitor breathing patterns, brain and lung activity, and blood oxygen levels. 

Treatment for mild cases may focus on lifestyle changes (e.g., weight loss, regular exercise). Patients may also be encouraged to avoid sedatives, quit smoking, and not sleep on their back.

Treating moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea may include:

  • Positive airway pressure devices (CPAP or BiPAP)
  • Mouthpieces to help keep airways open 
  • An implant to stimulate the nerve that controls tongue movement
  • Oxygen therapy

Some patients may need surgery to remove tissue that’s blocking the airway.

Occupational Lung Diseases

Occupational lung diseases are lung conditions caused or worsened by exposure to chemicals, gases, or other inhaled irritants in the workplace. 

Examples of occupational lung diseases include:

  • Work-related asthma – Caused by breathing in dust, smoke, and vapors in the workplace
  • Asbestosis – Caused by breathing in asbestosis fibers
  • Silicosis – Caused by breathing in crystalline silica dust from rocks (common in mining and construction industries)
  • Byssinosis, also known as “Brown Lung Disease” – Caused by breathing in the dust generated when processing cotton, hemp, or other fibers (usually in the textile industry)

The symptoms of occupational lung diseases vary depending on the condition. Here’s a list of symptoms known to present in most cases:

  • Shortness of breath that worsens with activity
  • Abnormal breathing rhythm
  • Chronic cough
  • Chest pain or tightness 

Chest x-rays, pulmonary function tests, blood tests, CT scans, bronchoscopies, and other tools and procedures may be used to diagnose a work-related lung condition. Treatment will typically include preventing additional exposure to irritants that have caused or are exacerbating the condition and managing symptoms with appropriate therapies for the patient’s diagnosis.


Parasomnias are sleep disorders that result in undesirable or unusual behaviors or experiences during sleep. Some parasomnias put patients in danger of harming themselves or others while sleeping.

Examples include:

  • Sleepwalking (somnambulism)
  • Sleep talking (somniloquy)
  • Night terrors (sleep terrors) 
  • Sleep paralysis 
  • Bedwetting
  • Sleep eating 

Some parasomnias occur during non-REM sleep (within the first four stages of sleep), while others happen during REM sleep (the deepest stage of the sleep cycle). Some happen when a person is transitioning to or from non-REM and REM sleep. Children tend to have parasomnias more than adults. 

To diagnose parasomnias, doctors will perform a medical exam and review the patient’s medical and family history. Other tools and tests may include a sleep diary and sleep studies to monitor and record brain activity, heart rate, eye movements, and breathing patterns while the patient is sleeping.  The treatment will depend on what’s triggering the parasomnia and any underlying health conditions. Management of the condition might involve lifestyle changes to facilitate healthy sleep habits, medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy or other psychological approaches.

Pleural Effusions

Pleural effusion is when excessive fluid builds up in between the pleura, the thin, dual-layer sheet of tissue around the lungs which lines the inside of the chest cavity. 

The two types of pleural effusion are:

  • Transudative pleural effusion – Increased pressure in the blood vessels or a low blood protein count causes fluid to leak into the pleural space. Most commonly, this is due to congestive heart failure.
  • Exudative pleural effusion – Caused by infection, injury, tumors, blocked blood vessels, or blocked lymph vessels.

Common signs of the condition include:

  • Sharp chest pain that worsens with coughing or taking deep breaths
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Hiccups
  • Rapid breathing 

To diagnose pleural effusion, a physician will conduct an exam to listen to the lungs and may order tests such as CT scan, chest x-ray, blood tests, ultrasound, and fluid analysis (using a sample obtained by inserting a needle between the ribs).

Treatment typically focuses on addressing the underlying issue causing the condition and removing excess fluid.


Pneumonia is a lung infection that causes inflammation of the lungs’ air sacs (alveoli). As the air sacs fill up with fluid or pus, it becomes difficult to breathe. 

While anyone can get pneumonia, people over age 65 and children under two years of age have an increased risk of developing it because of their weaker immune systems. Other risk factors include existing medical conditions, exposure to respiratory irritants, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse. Pneumonia sometimes occurs in people who have a cold or the flu.

Symptoms can include:

  • Cough (usually producing mucus)
  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever (or lower than normal body temperature), sweating, and chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion (typically in older adults)

The condition can lead to serious complications, especially in high-risk individuals. Diagnosing it may involve blood tests, chest x-ray, pulse oximetry (to measure oxygen levels in the blood), sputum test, or other procedures. 

Treatment may include antibiotics (if bacteria is the cause), fever reducers, and cough medicine. Hospitalization may be required for high-risk patients and those with severe cases.

There are vaccines available to help prevent some forms of pneumonia.  


A pneumothorax, also known as “collapsed lung,” is when air leaks into the space between the lung and the chest wall. The buildup of pressure prevents the lung from expanding normally. All or a portion of the lung can be affected. 

Potential causes include injuries to the chest area, extreme air pressure changes (such as during scuba diving), underlying lung diseases (e.g., asthma, whooping cough, cystic fibrosis, or COPD), or medical procedures (such as mechanical ventilation). Sometimes, a collapsed lung can happen without any apparent cause (spontaneous pneumothorax).

Symptoms typically include:

  • Sudden chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosing a pneumothorax may involve a chest x-ray. Also, sometimes a CT scan or ultrasound imaging may be used to confirm the condition. 

The treatment approach will depend on the severity of the lung collapse. It might include:

  • Observation
  • Removal of excess air via needle aspiration or chest tube insertion
  • Non-surgical or surgical procedures to seal the air leak

Generally, the condition happens in men more than women. People who are tall and underweight seem to be more prone to it. Other risk factors include smoking, family history, and having a previous pneumothorax. 

Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a potentially life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment. It is a sudden blockage in an artery in the lungs, usually caused by a blood clot in the leg that has traveled through the body. It can cause irreversible lung damage and hurt other organs due to low oxygen levels in the blood.

The symptoms vary and their severity depends on the extent of the blockage and whether a patient has underlying lung or heart issues. 

Common signs:

  • Chest pain 
  • Cough (possibly expelling blood)
  • Shortness of breath 

Other symptoms:

  • Pain, swelling, redness, or tenderness in one or both legs
  • Dizziness 
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Abnormal sweating or clammy skin
  • Fever

PE can happen to anyone, but the risk rises with age, obesity, or a family history of the condition. 

Other risk factors:

  • Taking hormone-based medications (e.g., birth control pills)
  • Not moving for an extended period (e.g., sitting on a long plane flight)

Also, individuals who have given birth or have had surgery are at greater risk for a period of time. 

A physical exam, blood tests, and imaging tests may be used to make a diagnosis. Treatment focuses on breaking up blood clots and preventing new ones. It may involve medicines — blood thinners and thrombolytics (to dissolve clots). Procedures a specialist might use to treat PE include removing clots via a catheter or catching clots via a vein filter so that they won’t reach the lungs.

Pulmonary Hypertension

This type of high blood pressure affects the arteries to the lungs. As the blood vessels harden and become narrow, the heart must work harder to move blood to the lungs. That increased demand on the heart causes the heart muscle to weaken, which can eventually lead to heart failure. 

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) sometimes occurs for no known reason, or it may happen because of another lung or heart issue. 

Several signs of PH are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Fast heart rate
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, or abdomen
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen
  • Reduced appetite
  • Bluish tint to lips and skin

To diagnose the condition and assess its severity, health care providers will typically perform a physical exam and order blood tests, chest x-ray, ECG, echocardiogram, CT scan, MRI, or other tests. 

While no cure exists for PH, treatments can help control the symptoms. They may include treating the underlying lung or heart condition, oxygen, and medications. Severe cases may require a lung transplant. 

Respiratory Failure

Respiratory failure occurs when a person’s blood doesn’t have enough oxygen or has too much carbon dioxide (or both). The condition can cause shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, confusion, sleepiness, and a bluish color in skin, lips, and fingernails. 

Several conditions that affect breathing function can cause respiratory failure:

  • Lung diseases (such as COPD, pneumonia, COVID-19, and cystic fibrosis)
  • Medical conditions — such as stroke, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and muscular dystrophy — that affect the muscles and nerves involved in breathing
  • Injuries in the chest area that damage the tissue or ribs around the lungs
  • Spine issues affecting the muscles and bones used when breathing (such as severe scoliosis)
  • Respiratory damage from breathing in harmful fumes

To diagnose respiratory failure, a healthcare provider may look at a patient’s medical history, listen to the lungs during a physical exam, and use various tests to determine the blood’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Additional testing after confirming the condition may include a chest x-ray and EKG.

Treatment will depend on the severity and cause of the problem. In urgent cases, patients may need intensive care at a hospital. For some patients, treatment at home may be effective. Various therapies and procedures to help resolve respiratory failure include oxygen therapy, mechanical ventilation, breathing tube, breathing treatments, and medicines.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, restless legs syndrome (RLS) gives people an uncontrollable urge to move their legs. The sensation usually occurs when at rest (sitting or lying down), and it can interfere with sleep. 

RLS patients describe the discomfort they experience that prompts them to want to move their legs as:

  • Crawling
  • Creeping
  • Tingling
  • Burning 

It’s suspected that RLS might be caused by a dopamine (the chemical in the brain that controls muscle movement) imbalance. Heredity may also play a role. Other health conditions (such as anemia, peripheral neuropathy, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease) increase the risk of developing RLS. People of all ages and genders can be affected, but RLS happens more often in older individuals and women.

Diagnosing RLS may involve a physical exam, blood tests, neurological tests, and a sleep study to detect if the condition might be associated with another sleep disorder.

The treatment approach will vary depending on any underlying conditions that are causing RLS or making it worse. Certain medications may be prescribed to increase dopamine levels in the brain or help reduce symptoms. Doctors may also recommend lifestyle changes to promote relaxation and support healthy sleep. 


This disease most often occurs in the lungs and lymph nodes. However, it can happen in other parts of the body, too. In pulmonary sarcoidosis, collections of inflammatory cells (granulomas) form and interfere with breathing. 

Symptoms may include:

  • A dry, persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing

If left untreated, pulmonary sarcoidosis can result in permanent scarring of the lungs and cause pulmonary hypertension. 

Usually, the cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. However, some people seem to be genetically predisposed to it when exposed to certain bacteria, viruses, or environmental irritants (dust, chemicals, etc.). Doctors may use diagnostic tests such as blood and urine tests, chest CT scan, and other procedures to confirm or rule out sarcoidosis. 

No specific cure exists for sarcoidosis. In mild cases, it may resolve on its own. However, medications may be prescribed — such as corticosteroids or immune system suppressants — when the condition interferes with lung function. Other treatments may be necessary as well, including surgery if lung damage is severe. 


Snoring is the harsh noise that happens when relaxed tissues in the throat vibrate during breathing while a person is asleep. The vibration occurs as air flows past the tissues, which are partially blocking the airway. Nearly everyone snores occasionally. However, it’s a chronic issue for some people and may be due to a serious health problem or the anatomy of the person’s soft palate, tonsils, or adenoids. 

If other symptoms, such as those below, accompany snoring, individuals may require medical evaluation.

  • Pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Trouble concentrating
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain 
  • Gasping or choking while sleeping
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Sore throat upon awakening
  • Morning headaches

Some of the health conditions chronic snoring may indicate include:

  • Central sleep apnea
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Obesity hypoventilation syndrome

In addition to a medical exam, doctors may also use imaging tests (e.g., x-ray, CT scan, MRI) and a sleep study to determine if a person’s snoring is due to an underlying condition.  Treatments may include oral appliances to help keep airways open while sleeping and treating the underlying condition causing snoring or making it worse.

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome

Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is when the soft tissues in the nose or throat narrow the airway and prevent proper airflow. It is similar to obstructive sleep apnea in that the condition can disturb sleep, but the airway resistance is not as severe and does not usually create periods of no breathing. 

Symptoms may be the same — but less severe — than those associated with obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent waking up during sleep
  • Trouble concentrating

To diagnose UARS, a healthcare provider may conduct a medical exam and use a sleep study to record breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, eye and limb movements, heart rate, and brain activity. 

The treatment approach will depend on what’s causing the condition. It may include lifestyle changes (such as losing weight), oral appliances to increase airflow, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and possibly surgery of the mouth, throat, or nasal passages.  Left untreated, persons with UARS may experience complications such as insomnia, depression, fatigue, high blood pressure, and heart issues.