Saturday, 21 April 2018
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What is COPD?

We hear the term COPD all the time, but do you know what it is? It is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. Recognizing symptoms early and receiving treatment can make a difference.  What is COPD, what causes COPD, what are the symptoms, and what is the treatment?

The American Lung Association definition - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term referring to two lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both conditions cause obstruction of airflow that interferes with normal breathing. Both frequently exist together, so physicians prefer the term COPD. 

Chronic bronchitis is the inflammation and eventual scarring of the lining of the bronchial tubes. When these bronchial tubes are inflamed they allow less air to pass to and from the lungs.  If this happens for an extended amount of time the excessive mucus is produced, lining in bronchial tubes thickens, cough develops, lungs become scarred, and the airflow becomes obstructed.  The bronchial tubes then make a perfect environment for viral and bacterial infections.

Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include chronic cough, increased mucus, frequent clearing of the throat and shortness of breath. The condition has been defined by the presence of a mucus-producing cough most days of the month, three months of a year for two years in a row without other underlying disease to explain the cough.  

Emphysema begins with the destruction of air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs where oxygen from the air is exchanged for carbon dioxide in the blood. Damage to the air sacs is irreversible and results in permanent “holes” in the tissues of the lower lungs. As air sacs are destroyed, the lungs can transfer less and less oxygen to the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath. The lungs also lose their elasticity, which is important for keeping airways open. In advanced emphysema cases, patients are extremely short of breath.

Symptoms of emphysema include cough, shortness of breath and a limited tolerance for exercise. As the disease advances, the work of breathing is so great that major weight loss occurs.

A number of things can cause COPD including; smoking, breathing secondhand smoke, environmentally hazards/pollutions, and genetics.  Smoking is the number one cause of COPD.  The best thing to do is to quit smoking to reduce chances of COPD.

Anyone that is experiencing symptoms of emphysema or chronic bronchitis should talk to the Doctor immediately.  COPD is treatable and preventable.  Treatment options include; medication, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, physical training, lifestyle changes, and surgery.  All of these options can be discussed with your doctor.  For more information visit these links: