Are respiratory diseases hereditary? Find Out.

by Demi

Most people want to know if respiratory diseases are hereditary. Read this piece to find out.


If you have trouble breathing, or a painful cough, there are chances your lungs are functioning below its capacity.

The respiratory system is essential for the proper functioning of all other systems in the body. The respiratory system is extremely vital to the body through the supply and removal of respiratory gases and the elimination of toxins and regulation of body temperature.

The lungs, being the largest and most crucial organ in the respiratory system, is the pillar the whole system rests upon. Therefore, it is not surprising that most respiratory diseases have a direct or indirect impact on the lungs.

In other words, infections, environmental predispositions, genetic abnormalities, and anything else that affects the lungs would lead to symptoms of respiratory diseases. 

In this article, we would examine two major respiratory diseases: COPD and

Asthma, and expound the effects of genetics and heredity on their development and manifestation.

Let’s dive in!

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is not a single respiratory disease, but an umbrella term that encompasses several respiratory disorders that result in breathlessness, and the inability to exhale air properly.

Here, the two most common types are Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema.

Chronic Bronchitis is simply characterized by the production of extra mucus in the respiratory airways.  Emphysema, on the other hand, involves damage to the air sacs of the lungs.

Usually, COPD occurs, and as a result of the lifestyle of the affected individual (e.g., smoking). However, there’s a probability that COPD could be developed due to genetics.

For instance, people with the inherited condition alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), are given birth to with the incorrect code to manufacture alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT). As a result, the individual usually has a deficiency of AAT.

Without AAT, an enzyme known as neutrophil elastase attacks the body’s tissues- including the lungs- leading to a malfunction in the respiratory system.

About 1 in every 1,500-3,500 people have AATD. This means it is not a quite prevalent cause of COPD- in comparison to other risk factors such as smoking.

Smoking is the most notable risk factor for COPD. The earlier you begin smoking, and the longer you smoke, the more likely it is for you to have COPD. Likewise, smoking cessation allows for a better outcome.



Asthma is a common chronic respiratory illness that results in difficulty in breathing due to the inflammation of the airways. Its symptoms include dry cough, wheezing, tightness of the chest, and shortness of breath. 

Asthma is a very complex disease- its causes are hard to decipher. However, there is a genetic component and the environmental component. Each of these components plays separate roles in the development of asthma.

To be clear, yes! Asthma could be hereditary. But, this does not mean you would manifest symptoms even if you have one or two of its genetic variants. Still, having a sibling or parent with asthma makes you twice as likely to develop asthma than an individual without this family history. 

If a person has a grandparent with asthma, there are still higher odds of having it compared to someone without a family history. However, the individual would have lower odds compared to someone who has an individual in their nuclear family who has it.

Here’s another thing that would blow your mind about asthma: about a hundred genes have been linked to asthma! A little change in the genetic make-up of these genes increases or decreases one’s chances of having asthma.


Author’s Bio

‘Bola Abioye is a licensed physiotherapist and seasoned writer who has found a way to merge her interest in both fields into one, by giving answers to health-related questions via her writing. 

When she is not treating patients or writing, she likes to spend some time at the beach or bask in the glory of nature while sipping some cranberry juice. 


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