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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.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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 1. 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.
- Most cases of hyperinflation of the lung are caused by either asthma or emphysema.
- Despite the likelihood that hyperinflation is caused by emphysema, individuals are cautioned not to self-diagnose and to undergo tests to determine a diagnosis.
Mucus-Producing Lung Diseases
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 1. 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.
- People diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are also prone to hyperinflation of the lung.
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.
Causes of Expanded Lungs
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 1.
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Mucus-Producing Lung Diseases
Causes of Expanded Lungs
Lung Problems That Cause Chest Pain
What Are the Causes of Continuous Productive Coughing?
Infections That Cause a Lung Mass
Atelectasis Vs. Scarring
Causes of Bronchodilation
Causes of a Wheezing Cough
The Differences Between Bronchitis & Whooping Cough
- Mayo Clinic
- American Thoracic Society
- Xu Y, Yamashiro T, Moriya H, et al. Hyperinflated lungs compress the heart during expiration in COPD patients: a new finding on dynamic-ventilation computed tomography. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2017;12:3123-31. doi:10.2147/COPD.S145599
- Hui S, How CH, Tee A. Does this patient really have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?. Singapore Med J. 2015;56(4):194-6. doi:10.11622/smedj.2015058
- Pompeo E. Lung Volume Reduction Surgery for Emphysema Treatment: State-of-the-Art and Perspectives. ISRN Pulmonol. 2014;2014:418092. doi:10.1155/2014/418092
- Milenkovic B, Janjic SD, Popevic S. Review of lung sealant technologies for lung volume reduction in pulmonary disease. Med Devices (Auckl). 2018 Jun;11:225-31. doi:10.2147/MDER.S127136
- Rossi A, Aisanov Z, Avdeev S, et al. Mechanisms, assessment and therapeutic implications of lung hyperinflation in COPD. Respir Med. 2015 Jul;109(7):785-802. doi:10.1016/j.rmed.2015.03.010
- Struß N, Bauersachs J, Welte T, Hohlfeld JM. Left heart function in COPD : Impact of lung deflation. Herz. 2019 Sep;44(6):477-82. doi:10.1007/s00059-019-4816-5
Denise Stern is an experienced freelance writer and editor. She has written professionally for more than seven years. Stern regularly provides content for health-related and elder-care websites and has an associate and specialized business degree in health information management and technology.