What Is COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)?
Did you know?
COPD affects approximately 30 million individuals in the U.S., and more than half of them experience COPD symptoms, but they don’t recognize them.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that leads to obstructed airflow from the lungs.
Symptoms Of COPD
The symptoms of COPD often don’t appear until the liver becomes damaged, or the COPD gets worse over time, due to regular smoking. Here are some of the symptoms of COPD:
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
- Chest tightness
- Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
- Lack of energy
- Unintended weight loss
- Swelling in ankles, feet or legs
- Need to clear throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
- Frequent respiratory infections
People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called exacerbations, during which their symptoms become worse than usual day-to-day variation and persist for at least several days.
Causes Of COPD
The major reasons behind COPD includes smoking, fumes, chemicals, genetics and more.
- Smoking – COPD most often occurs in the people of age 40 and more with a smoking history. Not every smoker gets COPD, but 90% of the COPD patients have smoked. It is very important to quit smoking if you haven’t! Quitting smoking helps slow the disease. It makes treatment more effective.
- Environmental Factors – Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can also occur in people who work in pollutant environment. In addition to it, long-term or heavy contact with secondhand smoke or other lung irritants in the home, such as organic cooking fuel, may also cause COPD.
- Genetic Factors – COPD can also occur in those individuals who have never smoked or been exposed to pollutants for an extended period of time. This happens due to Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD). AATD is the most commonly known genetic risk factor for emphysema. It occurs due to deficiency of the Alpha-1 Antitrypsin protein in the bloodstream. Without the Alpha-1 Antitrypsin protein, white blood cells begin to harm the lungs and lung deterioration occurs.
How Is COPD Treated?
Health care providers generally prescribe two type of medications – reliever (quick relief) and controller, to treat COPD. These medications open the lungs to make it easier to breathe. These medications are usually inhaled.
- Reliever medications are used when needed.
- Controller medications are used every day, even if you feel okay.
There are chances that COPD patients take more than one reliever and one controller medication.
In addition to taking your COPD medications, there are some things that you must follow to treat COPD:
- Quit smoking
- Avoid dust and pollution
- Get vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia.
- Keep any other diseases you have, like heart disease or diabetes, under control.
- Stay active.
What To Do If You’re COPD Symptoms Get Worse?
Call your prescriber or follow your action plan if you have:
- Increased shortness of breath or cough
- Increased sputum
- Sputum that looks different than usual (thicker, different color)
Get medical help immediately if you have:
- Severe shortness of breath
- Blue fingers or lips
- Chest pain