Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease also known as COPD is a blanket term used to describe a disease that causes difficulty in breathing. The disease is mainly of two forms: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. This disease might also include asthma and various forms of bronchiectasis. Breathlessness is the major character of this disease.

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Chronic bronchitis is the condition that blocks the airflow from the lungs. This condition is identified by the presence of daily coughing and mucus. It is basically the infection in the area that carries air from and to air sacs of the lungs.

Emphysema is a disease that is mostly caused by smoking cigarette or intense second hand smoking. In such condition, the air sac in the end of smallest passage of the lungs are destroyed by the harmful smoke inhaled.


Factors causing COPD:

Smoking:

Commonly COPD occurs in people who have history of smoking. Smoking is regarded as the primary factor of COPD. Second hand smoking is also considered as one of the cause of COPD.

Environmental factors:

The harmful indoor air pollution containing fumes, chemicals or dust as well as outdoor air  pollution contributes in the occurrence of COPD. It also occurs in a person who comes in long term contact with lung irritant at home including organic cooking fuels. According to WHO,“ Biomass fuels used by women for cooking account for the high prevalence of COPD among non-smoking women in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia”.

Genetics:

Even when a person has not smoked or never come in contact with pollutant for extended period of time, they might also be the victim of COPD. According to COPD Foundation, “Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD) is the most commonly known genetic risk factor for emphysema 2” . The World Health Organization and the American Thoracic Society recommends that every individual who is victim of OCPD  be tested for Alpha-1.


Symptoms:

COPD symptom does not fully appear unless full lung damage has occurred. The worsening might take place when the person is in continuous exposure with smoke. The major signs and symptoms of COPD are:

  • Shortness of breath during or even after physical activities
  • Having to clear throat most of the time due to presence of excess mucus in the throat
  • Excess coughing
  • Difficulty in breathing, panting.
  • Low energy level
  • Chest tightness
  • Presence of swelling in feet, ankle and leg area
  • Bluish discoloration of skin, nail and lips
  • Persistent cough that contains mucus (sputum) which may be clear, yellowish or greenish.

People with COPD also experience episodes called Exacerbations which makes the symptoms worse and it may last for several days at times.


Prevention and Cure:

Diagnosis of COPD is merely the end of life. Some condition may be in starting phase which can be prevented if you quit smoking. Even the advanced phase can be reduced through constructive therapy and total elimination of nicotine. WHO has listed four step process to both prevent and cure COPD. According to WHO “An effective COPD management plan includes four components: (1) assess and monitor disease; (2) reduce risk factors; (3) manage stable COPD; (4) manage exacerbations”.

Quit Smoking:

End Smoking, it can be both prevention as well as cure for COPD. For the total elimination of smoking habit one can consult to their doctor about nicotine replacement product.

Take Medicines:

Medicines can be used as a cure for more advanced COPD. Most of the medications are in the form of inhalers that is to be inhaled by the person with COPD. Medications like; bronchodilators, inhaled steroids and combination of both the inhalers are also used occasionally as a cure for COPD. In addition with that, Oral steroids, Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors Theophylline, Antibiotics are the medications that can also be used to cure and prevent acute exacerbations.

Lung Therapies:

Lung therapies like: oxygen therapy, Pulmonary rehabilitation program, is also used by doctors to cure severe to medium COPD.

Surgery:

Likewise for a severe COPD, surgery can be the last resort. Surgery like lung volume reduction: where the damaged tissue of upper lung is removed by the doctor so that the healthy tissue can expand. Bullectomy is also one of the surgical procedure which removes the large spaces from the lungs to improve the airflow to lungs.

Lung Transplant:

Lung transplant can be another solution but it has risk of organ rejection leading to paralysis and death.