There are three main types of lung disease, including:

  • Airway diseases: These conditions affect the tubes (or airways) that carry air into and out of the lungs. Diseases such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis narrow or block these airways, making you feel like you are breathing through a straw.
  • Lung tissue diseases: Diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis affect the structure of the lung tissue through inflammation or scarring. Lung tissue changes prevent the lungs from fully expanding, making it hard for you to take a deep breath to take in oxygen or expel carbon dioxide.
  • Lung circulation diseases: These affect the blood vessels in the lungs, caused by inflammation, clotting or scaring of the pulmonary blood vessels. This affects the ability of the lungs to take up oxygen or expel carbon dioxide, and this may also affect the functioning of the heart.

Lung disease can take many forms, including:

Meet the Teams

A physician looks at a pulmonary scan of the lungs.
The Northwestern Medicine Lung Diseases teams provide complete diagnostic and treatment services and facilities for patients with all types of respiratory diseases.

Types of Lung Disease



The Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

The Northwestern Medicine Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine provides complete diagnostic and treatment services and facilities for patients with all types of respiratory diseases.

To schedule an appointment or refer a patient, please call 312.695.1800.

Thoracic Surgery Program

The Thoracic Surgery Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital offers the latest surgical procedures for benign and malignant diseases of the chest, including the tracheobronchial tree (airways), lungs, pleura, esophagus, diaphragm, chest wall and mediastinum. Our program is comprised of a highly-specialized team that provides integrated care and practices medicine centered on each patient’s unique circumstances. Our program includes:

  • Comprehensive and seamlessly coordinated care across multiple physician disciplines, with team members from:
    • Medical oncology
    • Radiation oncology
    • Interventional pulmonology
    • Thoracic pathology
  • A highly specialized team of nurses, anesthesiologists and support personnel
  • Advanced diagnostic technologies
  • Minimally invasive surgical techniques
  • Convenient and customized patient and family services
  • Significant expertise in minimally invasive surgical techniques
  • Nationally recognized clinical experts
  • Demonstrated quality outcomes
  • Access to novel therapies and clinical trials
  • Commitment to collaboration with referring physicians
  • Collaboration with pharmaceutical, device and biotechnology companies in clinical trials to improve patient care and advance thoracic science

To schedule an appointment, call 312.695.3800.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program

Northwestern Medicine pulmonologists work with their peers at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital to combine exercise training with breathing retraining, behavioral and educational programs designed to help patients with COPD and other related chronic lung diseases.

The main goals of pulmonary rehabilitation are to help you control symptoms, improve daily living activities and restore your ability to function independently. Our team of nurses, respiratory therapists, exercise physiologists, pastoral care staff and dietitians will be with you from the start. They'll develop a plan that's right for you by gradually increasing activity levels and improving your quality of life.

How do I enter the program?

To enter the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at Lake Forest Hospital, you’ll need a referral from your physician with an appropriate diagnosis, as well as a pulmonary function test. We will also work with you to schedule a patient entry assessment prior to entering the program. This takes about two hours and includes assessment of the following:

  • Daily life activities
  • Education
  • Lifestyle
  • Medical history
  • Nutrition
  • Physical response to exercise
  • Quality of life
  • Symptoms

Chronic lung disease like asthma, COPD or pulmonary hypertension can restrict your independence and lifestyle — but it doesn’t have to. The pulmonary rehabilitation specialists can assess your physical condition and personalize a program to increase your strength and endurance, while helping you live a more active lifestyle and prevent complications and hospitalizations.

Thoracic Surgery at Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group

If you require chest surgery, you will find comfort and confidence in the thoracic surgery team at Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group. The team includes two dedicated, board-certified thoracic surgeons, including one who is specially trained in minimally invasive da Vinci® robotic-assisted thoracic surgery.

Our physicians treat the following conditions, among others:

  • Abnormalities of the chest wall (pectus excavatum)
  • Benign and malignant tumors of the lung, esophagus, and mediastinum
  • COPD and emphysema
  • Excessive sweating of the palms and face (hyperhidrosis)
  • GERD
  • Hernias (Hiatal, Hyperhidrosis)
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymph node enlargement (adenopathy)
  • Pleural effusion
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Thymoma
  • Lung nodules

Related Resources

  • What is Lung Cancer?: Find out more about the two main types of lung cancer and how they can spread.
  • Treatment for COPD: Learn what you can do to minimize your symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.