What Is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
What is COPD? Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a category of progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and some forms of bronchiectasis.
The most common symptom exhibited by people with COPD is increased shortness of breath. Some may think this commonly happens as people age, but this is not the case. Other symptoms include the following:
- Excessive mucus production
- Chest tightness
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Unintended weight loss
“COPD affects an estimated 24 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.” –COPD Foundation
Common Causes Of COPD
There are multiple causes of COPD, but the most prominent cause is cigarette smoking. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 25% of smokers develop the disease. Other populations of people with COPD include those exposed to “other inhaled irritants including second hand smoke, cigar smoke, air pollution, and workplace exposure to dust, smoke, or fumes.” There is a very small percentage of COPD patients who have developed the disease because of a genetic condition called alpha-1-antitrypsin. This is a condition in which the body does not make a certain protein necessary for adequate lung function.
There are a variety of treatments for COPD depending on the severity of the disease. Many people will be prescribed medications to manage their symptoms. These may include bronchodilators (to open up the tubes leading to the lungs), inhaled steroids (to reduce inflammation in the lungs), antibiotics (if a respiratory illness is present), among other medications to manage the disease.
Patients who have low oxygen saturation as a result of lung damage may also need to be on supplemental oxygen. Most people require a nasal cannula for their oxygen delivery.
In some cases, patients with severe COPD may qualify for surgery to increase lung function. Some may even qualify for a lung transplant.
Resources For Help
COPD is the third leading cause of death, according to the American Lung Association. If you or a person you know is suffering from the symptoms above, encourage them to seek the care of a doctor. COPD is manageable when the right treatment is in place. Improve your life today and get the help that you need!