Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

June 12 23:19 2019 Print This Article

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is the overall term used to describe a variety of illnesses, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. People with COPD have permanently damaged lungs and find it difficult to breathe most of the time. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Most people with COPD are smokers or former smokers. Breathing in other kinds of lung irritants, like pollution, dust, or chemicals, over a long period of time may also cause or contribute to Chronic obstructive pulmonary Disease. Your airways branch out inside your lungs like an upside-down tree.

At the end of each branch are small, balloon-like air sacs. In healthy people, both the airways and air sacs are springy and elastic. When you breathe in, each air sac fills with air like a small balloon. The balloon deflates when you exhale. In COPD, your airways and air sacs lose their shape and become floppy, like a stretched-out rubber band. COPD develops over many years (sometimes 10 to 30 years) and is most common in people over the age of 60. How severe the condition is and how quickly it progresses varies from person to person. COPD is sometimes called chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD) or chronic airflow obstruction (CAO).

Chronic obstructive pulmonary (or lung) disease (COPD or COLD) is caused by emphysema or chronic bronchitis. COPD can cause high blood pressure in the lungs. In the United States, about 16 million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is second only to heart disease as a cause of disability that forces people to stop working. It is the fourth most common cause of death, accounting for more than 100,000 deaths per year in the United States; the number of deaths from COPD has increased by 40% over the last 20 years.

The main symptom of having damaged lungs is difficulty with breathing. These breathing problems gradually get worse and worse, resulting in decreased quality of life and even heart failure (a weakened heart that no longer pumps effectively). The symptoms of COPD can appear similar to those of asthma. However, whereas asthma can be controlled with treatment, COPD causes permanent damage to the lungs.

Causes of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The main cause of COPD is smoking. The likelihood of developing COPD increases the more you smoke and the longer you have been smoking. Other causes include occupational exposure to dusts, indoor pollution from wood-burning and coal-burning stoves, air pollution and certain inherited diseases. For example, a minority of people have a rare inherited form of emphysema caused by a lack of the protein known as alpha-1-antitrypsin.

  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Inhalation of lung irritants, like pollution, dust, or chemicals over a long period of time.

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Sign and symptoms may include the following:

  • Chest tightness.
  • Tight chest.
  • Shortness of breath, especially with exercise.
  • Cough.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Sputum (mucus) production.
  • Persistent coughing.

Treatment for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Treatment may include:

  • Stopping smoking is the single most effective step in slowing the progression of the disease.
  • Drugs help to control symptoms, while rehabilitation programs and physiotherapy may be useful to clear sputum and improve exercise tolerance and health-related quality of life.
  • Patients with severe disease often require a variety of treatment approaches.