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Tuesday, 24 January 2017
COPD - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
What Is COPD
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.
Many people mistake their increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging. In the early stages of the disease, you may not notice the symptoms. COPD can develop for years without noticeable shortness of breath. You begin to see the symptoms in the more developed stages of the disease. That’s why it is important that you talk to your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. Ask your doctor about taking a spirometry test.
What are the signs and symptoms of COPD?
Frequent coughing (with and without sputum)
Tightness in the chest
How common is COPD?
COPD affects an estimated 30 million individuals in the U.S., and over half of them have symptoms of COPD and do not know it. Early screening can identify COPD before major loss of lung function occurs.
What are the risk factors and common causes of COPD?
Most cases of COPD are caused by inhaling pollutants; that includes smoking (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, etc.), and second-hand smoke.
Fumes, chemicals and dust found in many work environments are contributing factors for many individuals who develop COPD.
Genetics can also play a role in an individual’s development of COPD—even if the person has never smoked or has ever been exposed to strong lung irritants in the workplace.
Here is more information on the top three risk factors for developing COPD:
COPD most often occurs in people 40 years of age and older who have a history of smoking. These may be individuals who are current or former smokers. While not everybody who smokes gets COPD, most of the individuals who have COPD (about 90% of them) have smoked.
COPD can also occur in those who have had long-term contact with harmful pollutants in the workplace. Some of these harmful lung irritants include certain chemicals, dust, or fumes. Heavy or long-term contact with secondhand smoke or other lung irritants in the home, such as organic cooking fuel, may also cause COPD.
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. "Progressive" means the disease gets worse over time.
COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus (a slimy substance), wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants—such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust—also may contribute to COPD.
To understand COPD, it helps to understand how the lungs work. The air that you breathe goes down your windpipe into tubes in your lungs called bronchial (BRONG-ke-al) tubes or airways.
Within the lungs, your bronchial tubes branch into thousands of smaller, thinner tubes called bronchioles (BRONG-ke-ols). These tubes end in bunches of tiny round air sacs called alveoli (al-VEE-uhl-eye).
Small blood vessels called capillaries (KAP-ih-lare-ees) run through the walls of the air sacs. When air reaches the air sacs, oxygen passes through the air sac walls into the blood in the capillaries. At the same time, carbon dioxide (a waste gas) moves from the capillaries into the air sacs. This process is called gas exchange.
The airways and air sacs are elastic (stretchy). When you breathe in, each air sac fills up with air like a small balloon. When you breathe out, the air sacs deflate and the air goes out.
In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:
The airways and air sacs lose their elastic quality.
The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed.
The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed.
The airways make more mucus than usual, which can clog them.