Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) are diseases of the airways and other structures of the lung. Some of the most common are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension. In addition to tobacco smoke, other risk factors include air pollution, occupational chemicals and dusts, and frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood. CRDs are not curable, however, various forms of treatment that help dilate major air passages and improve shortness of breath can help control symptoms and increase the quality of life for people with the disease.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a group of progressive lung diseases. The most common are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Many people with COPD have both of these conditions.
Emphysema slowly destroys air sacs in our lungs, which interferes with outward air flow. Bronchitis causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which allows mucus to build up.
COPD makes it harder to breathe. Symptoms may be mild at first, beginning with coughing and shortness of breath. As it progresses, it can become increasingly difficult to breathe. one may experience wheezing and tightness in the chest.
The top cause of COPD is smoking. Long-term exposure to chemical and fumes in the workplace, air pollution and inhaling dust can also lead to COPD.There may be a genetic predisposition to developing COPD. Up to 5 percent of people with COPD have a deficiency in a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin. This deficiency causes the lungs to deteriorate and also can affect the liver. There may be other genetic factors at play as well.
It’s a disease that takes a long time to develop. COPD isn’t contagious.
Diagnosis usually involves imaging tests, blood tests, and lung function tests. Imaging tests include a chest X-ray or CT scan. These images can provide a detailed look at your lungs, blood vessels, and heart.Untreated, COPD can lead to heart problems and worsening respiratory infections.There’s no cure for COPD, but treatment can help ease symptoms, lower the chance of complications, and generally improve quality of life. Medications like inhalers and oral steroids can help control symptoms and minimize further damage. Oxygen therapy and surgery are some more forms of treatment.
With early diagnosis and treatment, people with COPD can improve their quality of life and begin to breathe a little easier.
“We will never know just how much we value our breath until we can’t breathe.”