The term “hyperinflation” can refer to either money, when inflation rises uncontrollably, or to a medical condition of the lungs when they are abnormally expanded. However, “mild hyperinflation” can refer only to overinflated lungs, as monetary hyperinflation is by definition out of control and never mild. While “static hyperinflation” and “dynamic hyperinflation” are the official medical terms describing types of hyperinflation, “mild hyperinflation” is a non-technical way of describing the appearance of unusually inflated lungs.
Lungs can appear hyperinflated in a chest X-ray without truly being so. For example, older men with osteoarthritis can have lungs that look overly inflated because of what the disease has done to the bones of their ribs. Also, just taking a deep breath and holding it can make the lungs look mildly hyperinflated. The most notable symptom of hyperinflation, difficulty breathing, can be caused by many things aside from hyperinflation, from taking a jog to catching a cold.
A chest X-ray is the first step toward diagnosing mild (or any type of) hyperinflation. However, as noted above, the appearance of hyperinflated lungs is not necessarily hyperinflation. If you appear to have hyperinflation in your X-ray, the next step is to see a lung specialist for a lung function test.
If the lung function test results are abnormal, the lung specialist will examine you and come to a diagnosis, as static and dynamic hyperinflation are only symptoms of greater illnesses. Emphysema, lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are all possibilities.
Less Serious Cases
Although hyperinflation can mean something serious, mild hyperinflation can also just be a side effect of non-lethal lung conditions. Asthma, chronic smoking or a virus can trap air in the lungs, causing them to hyperinflate. Although none of these things are healthy, they’re not deadly either and will often result in difficulty breathing with no further problems. Still, a person who experiences regular difficulty breathing would be wise to visit a lung specialist to check for anything serious. If nothing else, asthma that causes difficulty breathing is probably poorly controlled and a smoking habit that affects your breathing is likely to lead to emphysema in the long run.