What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive respiratory disease that makes it harder to breathe over time. The term COPD actually includes two different respiratory conditions, specifically chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
So far, there’s no cure for COPD, but it is manageable. Everyone loses some lung capacity as they get older, but if simple everyday activities like walking up stairs or doing household chores leave you short of breath, you should speak with your doctor.
When you breathe, air travels through tubes in your lungs—called airways—to millions of tiny air sacs. In a healthy lung, the airways are open and the air sacs fill up with air. Then the air goes quickly out.
COPD and Smoking
The Largest Cause of COPD is a History of Smoking Cigarettes
Habitual smoking can inflame the linings of the airways in the lungs and can make the airways lose their elastic quality. Other external factors that put you at risk of developing COPD are exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke, and occupational dust or chemicals.
Heredity can also play a role. Scientists have discovered what’s known as an alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, which is the source of a small proportion of cases of COPD. Researchers also suspect that other genetic factors may make certain smokers predisposed to the disease.
Symptoms of COPD
Common symptoms of COPD include:
- Constant coughing, sometimes called “smoker’s cough”
- Shortness of breath
- Not being able to take a deep breath
- Wheezing and tightness in your chest when you breathe in and out
- Excess production of mucus in your lungs
COPD is a long-term, progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. By working closely with your healthcare provider, adjustments can be made to your treatment plan and lifestyle to help manage your COPD symptoms as they change.
GET EMERGENCY CARE IF: Breathing problems worsen quickly or you use your rescue inhaler medicine, but it does not relieve your breathing problems.
COPD TRENDS is predominately diagnosed in men and women older than 40 years of age. And even though COPD is more common in men, more women die from this disease each year then men.
The rate of COPD continues to increase worldwide due to smoking and worsening air pollution. While there is no cure for COPD, you can take steps to feel better, stay more active, and slow disease progression.
Bronchitis / Emphysema
Is it Bronchitis or Emphysema? There are two main forms of COPD:
- Chronic bronchitis, which involves a long-term cough with mucus. Bronchitis is a swelling of the airways that carry air to the lungs. It typically causes a phlegmy cough and wheezing, and can make it hard to breathe.
- Emphysema, which involves damage to the lungs over time. Emphysema is a disease in which the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs become damaged. It typically causes shortness of breath or a feeling of tightened airways.
- Most people with COPD have a combination of both conditions.
COPD can occur in people who have had long-term exposure to things that can irritate the lungs, like certain chemicals, dust, or fumes in the workplace. Heavy or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke or other air pollutants may also put you at risk for developing COPD.
COPD: What to Expect
If you feel like you’re experiencing some of the symptoms of COPD, speak with your doctor. Your healthcare provider or specialist can perform a breathing test to help determine if you have COPD. The test measures how much air your lungs can hold and how forcefully you can breathe out.
COPD is a serious condition, but it shouldn’t mean you have to stop living on your terms. Speak with your doctor about the COPD treatment options available to you. Your healthcare provider may also suggest behavioral and lifestyle changes, and develop an overall treatment plan based on your particular needs.