WHAT IS COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, cough, mucus (sputum) production and wheezing. It's typically caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke. People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions.
 

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two most common conditions that contribute to COPD. These two conditions usually occur together and can vary in severity among individuals with COPD.
 

Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. It's characterized by daily cough and mucus (sputum) production.

Emphysema is a condition in which the alveoli at the end of the smallest air passages (bronchioles) of the lungs are destroyed as a result of damaging exposure to cigarette smoke and other irritating gases and particulate matter.

Although COPD is a progressive disease that gets worse over time, COPD is treatable. With proper management, most people with COPD can achieve good symptom control and quality of life, as well as reduced risk of other associated conditions.

Symptoms

COPD symptoms often don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time, particularly if smoking exposure continues.

Signs and symptoms of COPD may include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities

  • Wheezing

  • Chest tightness

  • A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish

  • Frequent respiratory infections

  • Lack of energy

  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)

  • Swelling in ankles, feet or legs

People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called exacerbations, during which their symptoms become worse than the usual day-to-day variation and persist for at least several days.

Causes & Complications of COPD

In the United States, tobacco smoke is a key factor in the development and progression of COPD.7 Exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors, and respiratory infections also play a role. In the developing world, indoor air quality is thought to play a larger role than it does in the United States. People should try to avoid inhaling tobacco smoke, home and workplace air pollutants, and respiratory infections to prevent developing COPD. Early detection of COPD may change its course and progress.

Compared to adults without COPD, those with this disease are more likely to:

  • Have activity limitations like difficulty walking or climbing stairs.

  • Be unable to work.

  • Need special equipment like portable oxygen tanks.

  • Not engage in social activities like eating out, going to places of worship, going to group events, or getting together with friends or neighbors.

  • Have increased confusion or memory loss.

  • Have more emergency room visits or overnight hospital stays.

  • Have other chronic diseases like arthritis, congestive heart failure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, or asthma

  • Have depression or other mental or emotional conditions.

  • Report a fair or poor health status.

Treatment

Treatment of COPD requires a careful and thorough evaluation by a physician. COPD treatment can alleviate symptoms, decrease the frequency and severity of exacerbations, and increase exercise tolerance. Treatment options that your physician may consider include:

  • Quit smoking. For people who smoke, the most important part of treatment is smoking cessation.
     

  • Avoid tobacco smoke and other air pollutants at home and at work.
     

  • Ask your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a personalized treatment program that teaches COPD management strategies to improve quality of life. Programs may include plans that teach people how to breathe better and conserve their energy, as well as provide advice on food and exercise.
     

  • Take medication. Symptoms such as coughing or wheezing can be treated with medication.
     

  • Avoid lung infections. Lung infections can cause serious problems in people with COPD. Certain vaccines, such as flu and pneumococcal vaccines, are especially important for people with COPD. Learn more about vaccination recommendations. Respiratory infections should be treated with antibiotics, if appropriate.
     

  • Use supplemental oxygen. Some people may need to use a portable oxygen tank if their blood oxygen levels are low.

Consult a doctor for medical advice or visit us at PEOPLE CARE INSTITUTE for more information

 

Note: The information you see here is general and describes what usually happens with a medical condition, but doesn't apply to everyone. This information IS NOT  a substitute for professional medical advice, so please make sure to contact a healthcare provider if you have a medical problem.