Chronic obstructive pulmonary or COPD is a progressive lung disease caused by damaged lungs. COPD makes it difficult to breathe. It’s the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
COPD is a mix of two lung diseases: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is a condition wherein the airways become inflamed. This blocks air from entering the lungs. Emphysema is a condition caused by damaged air sacs. When the air sacs in the lungs lose their stretch, less air gets in and out the lungs. This causes shortness of breath.
When the lungs sustain severe damage, it leads to both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Over time, these conditions lead to COPD. Unlike other tissues, you cannot reverse the damage to the lungs. That’s why COPD treatment is geared towards easing the symptoms and not curing the disease.
Causes of COPD
COPD is almost always caused by cigarette smoking. Chronic smoking destroys lung tissues. The lungs lose their ability to stretch and take in air. Other causes of COPD include breathing chemical fumes, and dust as well as exposure to polluted air over a long period of time. Exposure to secondhand smoke is also a factor in developing COPD.
It takes years of abuse for the lungs to exhibit signs of COPD. That’s why this condition is common among those ages 60 and above. COPD is also common in men.
Symptoms of COPD
The symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath and persistent cough. Other symptoms include difficulty in breathing that gets worse when exercising. Eating or even walking becomes extremely difficult for those suffering from COPD. It takes more energy to breathe and eat or exercise at the same time. Those afflicted with COPD will lose weight and strength progressively.
There will be flare-ups called COPD exacerbation. The attacks could range from mild to deadly very quickly. And the longer you have COPD, the more severe the flare-ups will be. Severe attacks often lead to hospitalization.
Treatment and Prevention
COPD is an incurable disease. But there are many ways to improve the quality of your life and feel better despite suffering from this condition. When it comes to treatment, the goal is simple: relieve the symptoms and improve lung function.
The first step in relieving symptoms and improving lung function is to stop smoking. Smoking and COPD is literally a deadly combination. Regardless if your condition is mild, you have to stop smoking right now. Use smoking cessation aid to kick the habit. As your doctor about nicotine replacement products and other medications that will help you abstain from cigarettes.
It also helps to improve your lifestyle. Sign up for a pulmonary rehabilitation program. This program will allow you to work with health experts who will track your diet, give health and lifestyle advices as well as educate you about managing your disease.
Note that COPD becomes worse when you have the flu or pneumonia. So it’s important to get a yearly vaccination to minimize the chances of contracting these conditions.
Finally, you can take medications to improve breathing. These medications include anti-bacterial drugs, anti-inflammatory meds, and oxygen treatments. Finally, avoid stressing yourself. Stress, anxiety, anger and even excitement could triggers COPD.