Chronic Lung Disease

Also known as: CLD, bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

What is chronic lung disease?

Chronic lung disease, or CLD, or more commonly bronchopulmonary dysplasia is the term used for long term breathing problems that can occur after birth from lung injury, usually in very prematurely born infants.

What causes chronic lung disease? 

Most result because premature babies have very undeveloped immature lungs (70%-75% of infants < 26 weeks will develop CLD) easily damaged by inflammation from a high concentration of oxygen, or having breathing assisted by a machine (a ventilator) because of a lack of surfactant (a soap-like substance in the air passages/sacs which prevents them from collapsing each time the baby breathes out), or fluid in the lungs from a heart condition (or other cause). Some nutritional factors (Vitamin A), or familial diseases (like asthma) may play a role too.

What are the symptoms of chronic lung disease? 

A baby with chronic lung disease will have rapid breathing, grunting, flaring nostrils, uses chest muscles (that causes sucking in of rib muscles/skin) to help with breathing, and wheezes. The infant child may become easily fatigued, especially while feeding, and have tongue, skin, lips and nail beds that appear pale or gray.

What are chronic lung disease care options?

Treatment depends on the severity. Vaccination to prevent infections; some babies may need supplemental oxygen or ventilators to breathe for some time. Other medications may be required. Many children with CLD may significantly improve over months to years, but may still have an increased risk for lung infections and wheezing. 

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 4/24/2018 3:00:53 PM


Andrew was born with chronic lung disease and has had to live his entire life connected to a ventilator that helps him breathe. He’s been receiving treatment at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital since he was three months old, and along the way he and his family were told about VACC Camp, a week-long camp free of charge for patients like him.

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