Have you ever heard that if you want to give better sound projection, like trying to sing better or to speak louder yet clear, you need to use your diaphragm? Seems difficult but it centres on manipulating your diaphragm through breathing. You may not realise that everyday that you are using your diaphragm to breathe and only come to realise that diaphragm is important when you have difficulty breathing well, thus the need to ask a doctor for advice and treatment.
Diaphragm is an important muscle in the respiration system. It is a thin muscle structure that separates the thoracic or chest cavities and the abdominal cavities. It is usually in a dome shape. Basically, it works by alternating movement of contraction or relaxation during inhalation or exhalation. When a person inhales air, the diaphragm contracts and flattens, expanding the chest activity. On the other hand, when a person exhales, the diaphragm relaxes and returns to its original position, forcing the air out of the lung.
If issues strike the diaphragm, a person will have either breathing difficulty or feeling such discomfort when breathing. What do the diaphragm issues feel like? To answer this is quite difficult as symptoms of what a person is feeling differs based on the causes pointing to such conditions. General symptoms that can be expected are:
1- A bluish tint of the skin, most visible around the eyes, mouth and nails (cyanosis).
2- Struggling to breath
3- Shortness of breath
4- Rapid breathing
5- Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
6- Chest pain
Some even have pain in the shoulder or abdomen. In some rare cases, these symptoms might be accompanied by a paralysed diaphragm. A person with hiatal hernia, a condition of the stomach bulges upwards into the chest through an opening of the diaphragm which is not normal, may experience other symptoms aside the above general symptoms. This includes constant trouble swallowing (dysphagia), nausea, vomiting, feeling full after having small amount of food, backflow of partially digested food or drinks from the stomach to the mouth, and symptoms resembling gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) such as heartburn, bad bitter taste in the mouth, burping and bloating.
There are numerous causes that could be affecting diaphragm to cause issues. Examples are:
1) Congenital defect- This occurs before birth as there is hole in the diaphragm and usually the cause is unknown.
2) Acquired defect- Injury, accident or surgery may lead to developing holes to the diaphragm.
3) Cancer- Tumour may begin in the diaphragm although rare. Some tumours may be the result of a metastasis (spreading of the cancer cells from the place where it is first formed to other sites inside the body), typically from the lungs or liver.
4) Injury to the phrenic nerve- Phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm. When injury occurs to this nerve, one side or both sides of the diaphragm can become paralyzed and affect the normal lung function.
5) Muscular dystrophy- Weakening of the diaphragm due to the course of the disease causes reduced oxygen intake and decreased lung function.
6) Multiple sclerosis- Apart from weakness of the arms or legs, the respiratory muscle including the diaphragm become weak and lose its muscle strength.
7) Lupus- Also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), diaphragmatic weakness is common due to inflammation of the chest cavity affecting the diaphragm.
8) Malnutrition- This undernutrition changes cause changes of the structure and function of the diaphragm muscle.
9) Infection- Typically stem from infections affecting the respiratory system such as inflammation of the tissue lining the lungs (pleurisy) or infection directly to the lungs such as in pneumonia.
10) Inflammation- Inflammation of the bronchial tube (bronchitis). Also read – Dengue Prevention.
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