What is COPD?
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, where it is hard to breathe, and progressively gets worse over time.
Usually patients with COPD cough up large amounts of mucus, have shortness of breath, wheeze, and experience tightness in the chest.
Understanding The Lungs
To better understand this disease, it is good to have an overview understanding of the lungs. When you breath in air, it goes down your windpipe, into the bronchial tubes of the lungs which branch out into smaller tubes called bronchioles. At the end of these tubes are tiny sacs called alveoli.
Oxygen passes through the air sac walls and into the blood, at which point carbon dioxide moves from the capillaries into the air sacks. When you breathe in, the air sacs inflate, and when you breathe out, they deflate.
With COPD, not enough air flows in and out of the airways for the following reasons:
- The sacs and airways lose elasticity
- The air sac walls become inflamed or destroyed
- The airways become clogged with excess mucus
- In the U.S., COPD usually includes two main conditions: Emphysema and chronic bronchitis. With emphysema, the walls between the air sacs become damaged and as a result, the air sacs become floppy. Overall, there is a reduction in the amount of gas exchanged.
- With chronic bronchitis, the airway lining is inflamed and irritated, excess mucus causes it to be hard to breathe.
Causes & Risks of COPD
- The main cause of COPD is exposure to lung irritants, such as pollution, chemical fumes, dust, and most commonly, cigarette smoke.
- The main person who is at risk for COPD are smokers.
Signs & Symptoms of COPD
- Chronic cough
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath in physical activity
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, while many who have the disease do not even know it. As the symptoms slowly get worse, it becomes harder to do routine activities.
Treatments & Lifestyle Changes for COPD
- The main goal of treatment will be to slower the progress of the disease and ease the symptoms. This includes:
- Quitting smoking and avoiding lung irritants
- Follow a nutritional eating plan
- Use of bronchodilators (with an inhaler), which help open your airways and make breathing easier
- Combination of bronchodilator and inhaled steroid
- Vaccines – Flu shot, pneumococcal vaccine
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