What are Hyperinflated Lungs?

What does it mean?
A hyperinflated lung is a lung that has air trapped inside. This trapped air can lead to overinflation—which can produce significant and detrimental lung damage. Hyperinflated lungs are common in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patients with COPD have some degree of hyperinflation of the lungs. Other lung-related problems can also lead to hyperinflated lungs as well, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis.
When damaged lung tissue results in lu7ngs that become less elastic. Lungs lose their elasticity; the expulsion of air becomes difficult and it can get trapped inside the lungs. It can happen when patients begin to inhale before they’ve fully exhaled. Consequently, air gets trapped within the lungs with each successive breath causing them to overinflate.  

Static vs. Dynamic Hyperinflation
There are two distinct types of hyperinflation—static and dynamic. Static is due to a decrease in the elasticity of the lungs. When lung tissue is damaged it can result in the lungs becoming less elastic. The expulsion of air then becomes difficult, leaving air trapped in the lungs.
Dynamic is the more common form of hyperinflation and is usually found in those afflicted with COPD. This happens when someone begins to inhale before they’ve fully exhaled. Consequently, air gets trapped in the lungs with each breath and leads to over inflation.

What are the symptoms?
Keep in mind that the symptoms of hyperinflated lungs may be worsened by other lung related issues. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult with your doctor. Chest x-rays may reveal what you’re dealing with. See your doctor if you experience reoccurring symptoms like:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chronic cough (especially during exercise)
  • Frequent bouts of sickness (often bronchitis)
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Impaired muscle function
  • Heart dysfunction
  • Reduced physical activity levels

What causes it?
Hyperinflation lungs, or air getting trapped in the lungs, usually means there is some blockage or lung damage. A blockage in air passages or air sacs that are losing elasticity can interfere with the expulsion of the air from the lungs. A healthy lung should be able to breathe in and out easily. Other afflictions can also cause the symptoms of hyperinflated lungs to worsen. If you suffer from asthma or other breathing related diseases, your symptoms may intensify. Stress can also aggravate hyperinflated lungs.

What to do.
Facing hyperinflated lungs? There are a few things you can do to help:

  • Pursed lip breathing—this will reduce the inflation and improve your exercise tolerance. It will also help to regulate your oxygen saturation levels, especially during exercise.
  • Exercise training—working out your body as well as your lungs can reduce lung hyperinflation and improve your exercise tolerance.
  • Oxygen therapy—studies have shown that oxygen therapy has consistently reduced the risk of lung hyperinflation during exercise.
  • Bronchodilators—proven to reduce lung hyperinflation both at rest and during exercise.
  • Lung volume reduction surgery—this is a very dramatic method. The operation removes the worst affected areas of your lungs. It can help relieve breathlessness, increase the ability to exercise and improve quality of life. To qualify for this surgery, you must meet very strict criteria.