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The bad music of respiratory symptoms

Posted Sep 16 2008 6:00am

The engagement of the respiratory patient in the management of their disease helps to get more success from it. The respiratory system seems to be so obvious that many people forget to ask for more facts. If a patient has acute or chronic onset disease, the questions may vary but the interest should be the same because the own health is still health.

What is a respiratory symptom?

Respiratory symptoms are the set of complaints mainly located in the respiratory tract. They may be due to local reactions at the upper or at the lower respiratory area. Some of them may have an undefined origin but most of them are clearly related to a more precise topographic area.

Up-up and away

Sneezing, nasal itching, epistaxis (nasal bleeding), nasal congestion (stagnated nasal phlegm), snoring, dysphonia, hoarseness (with breathy or harsh voice), stridor (a high pitched sound with each breathing), and throat pain are associated with diseases of the upper respiratory tract.

Everybody is going down

Cough, sputum, thoracic internal pain, breathlessness, blood tinged sputum (hemoptoic sputum), cough with blood (hemoptisis) are more signals of alteration in the bronchi and lungs.

Cough is some times misunderstood because is a symptom with a complex mechanism. Often it may be associated to upper or to lower respiratory diseases. Several circumstances may preclude an association to both segments of the respiratory tract.

Last night I didn’t get to sleep at all

Symptoms may be organized according to their chronological appearance or at least we physicians try to do that. It’s great when a patient comes with a well organized information and says (for instance): “I started with nasal congestion 3 days ago, then it appeared the cough (dry at the start and with sputum later), followed by thoracic pain at my right side which is the reason why I come today”…

Hard to say I’m sorry

When the respiratory symptoms are accompanied by non-respiratory symptoms, these may be taken into consideration. For instance: fever and weight loss are key indicators of a more complex condition and how they occur really help to clarify the diagnosis or assess the evolution (progress or deterioration).

We go together

Then in the assessment of the respiratory patient we look for local and constitutional symptoms, with the type of onset (acute, sub-acute, or chronic), as well as the evolution in the time.

Keep in mind all the symptoms and their characteristics to ease a diagnosis and appropriate management.

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