Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or COPD is a group of lung diseases that are progressive. Many people with COPD suffer from two conditions simultaneously, i.e., emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Other conditions like bullous disease and asthmatic bronchitis are sometimes also present.
It is a disease that destroys airways and loss of lung function. This disorder is common among older adults in America. On the whole, roughly 11 percent of the American population suffers from COPD. According to researches, it kills 85,000 men and women, and it’s the leading cause of death in the US every year.
This disorder leads to inflammation and swelling of the airways in the lung called bronchi. Due to this, excessive mucus is produced that settles in the lungs. It causes chronic cough, which can last from 3 months up to 2 successive years. The existence of excessive cough and mucus leads to blockage of airways and causes shortness of breath. Over time, breathing becomes more difficult. It is an irreversible condition, but with a proper treatment plan, one can manage its symptoms, as well as reduce the risk of other associated diseases.
It is inflammation in the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. Due to inflammation, tubes swell, and mucus builds around the bronchial tube linings. It results in the narrow airway for the movement of air. There are small hair-like structures present in the bronchial tube called cilia, whose function is to remove the mucus. But the irritation from smoking damages them. Therefore, cilia do not perform its function, leading to chronic bronchitis.
This condition is a result of damaging exposure to cigarette smoke and other irritating gases and particulate matter. Emphysema occurs when alveoli get infected from toxins inhaled. The alveoli have tissue that stretches when air is breathed in and contract when air lets out from the lungs. The carbon dioxide generated due to activity, and fresh oxygen gets infused with blood, within these air sacs.
This condition causes the air sacs to collapse when someone breathes out, trapping air. It makes breathing very hard. Damaged air sacs supply air to lungs, which makes one feel shortness of breath. When alveoli collapse, they do not regenerate. Therefore, this causes irreversible damage to the lungs.
Symptoms of COPD
COPD makes breathing difficult. The symptoms of this condition may be mild at first, beginning with coughing and shortness of breath. As it progresses, it can become to where it can become difficult to breathe, more constant. You may experience tightness in the chest. Some people also have severe exacerbations, which are flare-ups of symptoms.
At first, symptoms of COPD can be rather mild. Many people don’t think much of it. Early signs of COPD include:
- Shortness of breath (sometimes) particularly after exercise
- Moderate but recurrent cough
- Clearing your throat frequently, especially first thing in the morning
It leads to slow lifestyle changes. Symptoms that were harder to dismiss and can become worse. You may encounter symptoms due to lung damage like:
- wheezing, which is a type of high pitched noisy breathing, especially during exhalations
- chest tightness
- chronic cough, with or without mucus
- frequent colds or other respiratory ailments
- lack of energy
- swelling of the toes, ankles, or legs
- Weight Reduction
- bluish or grey fingernails or lips, as this indicates low oxygen levels in your bloodstream
- have trouble catching your breath or can’t speak
Symptoms will likely be worse if you smoke or are exposed to someone who smokes.
What causes COPD?
Smoking tobacco causes up to 90 percent of cases. Other factors include:
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency, a hereditary disorder.
- Secondhand smoke
- Air contamination
- Exposure to workplace dust and fumes
In the USA, the leading cause of COPD is smoking. About 90% of people in the USA suffering from COPD is a smoker or had a smoking history and are above 40 years of age. The smoke from cigarettes irritates airways, triggering inflammation (irritation and swelling) that narrows the airways. Smoking damages Cilia also, so they cannot perform their job of removing mucus from the bronchial tubes or airways.
AAT or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is an uncommon genetic disorder that can result in emphysema. Alpha-1 antitrypsin is a protein molecule that can help protect the lungs from the effects of inflammation. When you suffer from AAT deficiency, it leads to emphysema. It happens to only 5% of people suffering from COPD.
Prevention and Treatment
Unlike other diseases, COPD typically has a cause and a clear path of avoidance, and there are ways to slow the disease’s progression. Nearly all cases are directly related to cigarette smoking, and the best way is to quit smoking – or simply never smoke.
If you’re a longtime smoker, then these statements might not appear so simple, particularly if you’ve tried quitting twice or many times before. But keep trying to stop. It’s your very best opportunity to avoid further lung damage.
Exposure to fumes and lung irritants is another risk factor. You can speak with your doctor about the most effective ways to protect yourself, like using respiratory protective equipment.
The best steps you can take to help prevent COPD from further advancing: Quit smoking to help reduce your chance of COPD. Here are some ways in which doctors treat a COPD patient.
Bronchodilators are medications that help relax the muscles of the airways so that you may breathe easier. They obtained through an inhaler or a nebulizer. Glucocorticosteroids are another drug used to reduce inflammation.
If your blood sugar level is low, you can get the oxygen that will assist you to breathe. A unit may make it easier to get around.
It is for a severe case of COPD or if other therapies have failed, which is likely once you’ve gotten emphysema (leads to the collapse of the airways).