Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Awareness

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease awareness

07/11/2022

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Awareness

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a chronic respiratory condition that results in slow deterioration of your lung health. Although this disease is commonly found in individuals with a history of tobacco smoking, it is still linked to a wide range of risk factors and comorbidities. This condition also includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The occurrence of this disease is linked with exposure of toxic irritants such as harmful chemicals, environmental pollutants, and cigarette smoke that usually causes irreparable damage to the lungs. Let’s look at the risk factors associated with this disease to get a clear understanding of the symptoms and causes.

What is COPD?

COPD is a medical term for a number of lung disorders that worsen with time. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis can potentially lead to COPD. A COPD diagnosis indicates that you may have signs of both of these lung-damaging conditions or just one of them. As COPD worsens over time, breathing becomes more difficult.

Chronic Bronchitis

This is a lung disorder where your bronchial tubes, which transport air to and from your lungs, become irritated. The tubes enlarge as a result of this condition, and mucus (phlegm or "snot") accumulates along the lining. The phlegm build-up makes it challenging to breathe as it reduces the tube's aperture.

Mucus is often expelled from the airways of your lungs by tiny, hair-like structures on the inside of your bronchial tubes known as cilia. Smoking and environmental pollutants harm these cilia and this leads to an increase in existing symptoms. Mucus cannot be cleared by cilia that are damaged and this causes chronic bronchitis.

What is Emphysema?

The breakdown of the walls of the tiny air sacs (alveoli) at the end of the bronchial tubes, in the "bottom" of your lung, is referred to as emphysema. Your lung is similar to an upside-down tree. The trunk represents the windpipe or "trachea", the branches represent the bronchi, and the leaves represent the air sacs or "alveoli".

The air sacs are critical in transferring oxygen into your blood and removing carbon dioxide. Emphysema damage destroys the walls of the air sacs, making it difficult to take a full breath.

The Difference between Asthma and COPD

Asthma and COPD are very similar in many ways, including symptoms such as shortness of breath and restricted airflow. COPD, on the other hand, is a chronic and progressive disease. Allergens frequently trigger asthma attacks. The primary cause of COPD is smoking.

People who have asthma do not necessarily develop COPD. COPD patients do not always have asthma. However, both of these respiratory conditions are possible. If you have both, you must treat both.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of COPD. However, not all smokers get the disease. You may be more vulnerable if you:

  • Have reached the age of 65 years
  • Have been subjected to air pollution
  • Have worked with chemicals, dust, or fumes in factories
  • Have a genetic risk factor for COPD called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AAT).
  • Had a lot of respiratory infections as a child

Causes of COPD

Tobacco use is responsible for up to 90% of COPD cases. Other factors include:

  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency, which is a hereditary condition
  • Passive cigarette smoke
  • Exposure to highly polluted air
  • Excessive exposure to dust and fumes in the workplace

Smoking

Tobacco smoke irritates the airways, causing inflammation (irritation and swelling) and narrowing. Smoke also damages cilia, making them incapable of removing mucus and trapped particles from the airways.

AAT Deficiency

AAT (alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency) is a rare, inherited condition that can result in emphysema. Alpha-1 antitrypsin is an enzyme that aids in the protection of your lungs from the harmful effects of inflammation. AAT deficiency also causes insufficient production of alpha-1 antitrypsin. Exposure to irritating substances such as smoke and dust increases the likelihood of lung damage. COPD caused by alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency cannot be distinguished from common COPD. As a result, all people with COPD should be tested for AAT deficiency via blood test.

Signs and Symptoms of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

  • Coughing with mucus that lasts for a long time
  • Extreme difficulty in taking a deep breath
  • Mild exercise causes shortness of breath (like walking or using the stairs)
  • Shortness of breath while performing routine daily activities
  • Wheezing

If you're experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of COPD, don't wait until your next appointment to contact your doctor. Even if you don't feel sick, report these symptoms right away. Don't wait for your symptoms to worsen to the point where you need to seek emergency care. If you notice your symptoms early, your healthcare provider may alter your treatment or medications to alleviate them. (Never change or discontinue medications without first consulting with your healthcare provider or diagnostic center.)

Keep in mind that warning signs or symptoms may be the same or different from one flare-up to the next.

Tests to Determine COPD

Spirometry is a simple test used by healthcare providers to determine how well your lungs work. You blow air into a tube attached to a machine for this test. This lung function test determines how much air you can expel and how quickly you can do so.

A medical and diagnostic center may also want to perform a few additional tests, such as:

Pulse oximetry: This test determines the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Arterial blood gases (ABGs): These tests measure the existing levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This test examines heart function and eliminates heart disease as a possible cause of shortness of breath.

Chest X-ray or CT scan: These imaging tests look for lung changes caused by COPD.

Medical Disclaimer

Any medical information referred to in or through our blog is provided as information only and is not intended:

  • as medical diagnosis or treatment
  • to replace consultation with a qualified medical practitioner

We highly recommend you consult the medical professionals empaneled with us for specific advice about your situation.