Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a progressive inflammatory lung disease characterized by increasing breathing difficulty.
Other symptoms include cough call a with mucus chest tightness and wheezing.
COPD is an umbrella term used to describe a group of breathing conditions the most common being chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
COPD Causes and Symptoms
Many people living with COPD may have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis, a few people have both asthma and COPD.
COPD develops as a result of long-term exposure to irritants such as smoke chemical fumes or dust and may go unnoticed for years.
Most people show symptoms after the age of 40 when the disease is already in its advanced stage.
The lungs consist of millions of air tubes or Airways called bronchi and bronchioles which bring air in and out of the body, these Airways end with tiny air sacs.
Normally as you inhale air moves freely through your trachea or windpipe then through large tubes called bronchioles called bronchioles and finally into tiny sacs called alveoli.
Small blood vessels called capillaries surround your alveoli.
The alveoli where the gas exchange process takes place repeated inhalation of irritants results in a chronic inflammatory response which brings in a large amount of defensive cells along with inflammatory chemicals from the immune system.
Inflammation of the airways causes them to thicken and produce mucus narrowing the air passage.
This is known as chronic bronchitis inflammatory chemicals also dissolve alveolar walls resulting in destruction of the air sacs, this is emphysema. COPD is basically a combination of these two conditions.
Oxygen from the air you breathe passes into your capillaries, then carbon dioxide from your body passes out of your capillaries into your alveoli, so that your lungs can get rid of it when you exhale.
Normally your Airways and alveoli are flexible and springy. When you inhale each air sac inflates like a small balloon, and when you exhale the sacks deflate.
Tobacco smoking is accountable for about 90% of COPD cases, these include current former smokers and people frequently exposed to second-hand smoke.
Extended contact with harmful chemicals such as fumes from burning fuel or dusts at home or workplace, may also cause COPD.
Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke or irritants such as air pollution dust or workplace fumes and biomass exposure such as wood smoke can also contribute to COPD.
An uncommon genetic disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is sometimes associated with COPD.
Genetics has been implicated in a small number of cases notably a condition known as alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency or aat deficiency has been shown to increase risks for COPD and other lung diseases.
If you have COPD you have the two main conditions that make up the disease emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
In emphysema your Airways and air sacs lose their flexibility making it harder for them to expand and contract.
People with COPD can experience a variety of symptoms. different stages of COPD range from mild to moderate to severe.
In normal functioning lungs when air is inhaled it travels down the windpipe and into the airways or bronchial tubes of the lungs.
Inside the lungs the Airways branch out into smaller and smaller tubes called bronchioles that are rich in blood supply at the end of these tubes are billions of tiny air sacs called alveoli.
Normally the walls of the airways and air sacs are elastic and flexible in nature. inhaling causes each air sac to fill with air exhaling causes each air sac to deflate.
Emphysema destroys some of your air sac walls leading to fewer larger sacs that provide less area to absorb oxygen from the air you breathe.
The symptoms of emphysema include, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in your chest.
With chronic bronchitis damage inside your Airways causes the lining to swell, thicken, and make mucus. You develop a persistent cough as your body attempts to get rid of the extra mucus.
The symptoms of chronic bronchitis include an ongoing cough that produces a lot of mucus, shortness of breath, and frequent respiratory infections.
The damage done to your lungs by COPD cannot be reversed and there is no cure for the disease.
Although COPD is more common in men more women die from this disease each year than men. The rate of COPD continues to increase worldwide due to smoking and worsening air pollution.
Management and Treatment of COPD
The first and most essential step to treatment is to stop smoking and improve air quality at home and workplace.
These are also the most effective measures in preventing the disease. Other treatments include medication, bronchodilators are used to widen the airways steroids to relieve inflammation.
However treatment can slow the progress of your disease and help you feel better.
Use of inhaled medicines to open your Airways and reduce swelling, antibiotics for bronchitis caused by bacterial infection, oxygen therapy for those with advanced COPD and severely low levels of oxygen in their blood.
COPD can be managed by consulting early with your health care provider.
Seeking diagnosis and intervention therapies and adopting lifestyle changes that include quitting smoking, pulmonary rehabilitation, healthy eating, and exercise and maintaining a positive outlook.
If you are a smoker quitting smoking reduces the chance you'll develop COPD. You can also limit your exposure to chemicals fumes and dusts that may cause COPD.