What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is the name of a group of progressive lung diseases. The most common illnesses that are associated with COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Sometimes, one person can be affected with both these diseases.
Emphysema is an illness that gradually destroys the air sack in the pulmonary system, which cause difficulty with the outward airflow from the lungs. Bronchitis on the other hand is an illness that causes narrowing and inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which allows mucus to build up in the airway.
COPD patients often find it’s harder to breath. Although the symptoms of COPD may be mild in the beginning with just coughing and shortness of breath, but as the disease progresses patients suffering from COPD find increasing difficulty in breathing.
Patients affected by this malady experience tightness in their chest along with symptoms like wheezing.
One of the major reasons for developing this disease is smoking. Prolonged exposure to chemical irritants and other harmful external agents like toxic gases can also lead to COPD. Nevertheless, COPD is an ailment that takes pretty long to develop in the patients suffering from this acute respiratory malady.
Diagnosis of COPD is usually done by imaging, blood tests and also LFT (lung Function Test).
There is hardly any cure for this disease. But there are certain treatments that can help to ease the symptoms of this illness and lowers the chances of complications which in turn generally improves the quality of life of the COPD patients.
However, it must be also remembered, if left untreated COPD can lead to severe heart ailments and also worsening respiratory infections in the patients.There are several people all across the globe, who in spite of having this disease are unaware of its presence in their body.To slow the progress of this disease, it’s best to consult a pulmonologist (lung specialist) or a respiratory therapist.Medications that helps in relaxing the muscles of the airway, such as bronchodilators are generally prescribed to the patients suffering from this disease. Bronchodilator medicines are usually inhaled. Glucocorticosteroids are also at times prescribed to the patients for reducing inflammation in their airway tract.Other than these oxygen therapy is also recommended to the patients along with pneumococcal vaccine and an annual dose of flu shots.
When medicines fails to bring comfort in some of the COPD patients, surgery is performed in severe COPD cases, when all other treatments have failed. Surgery like bellectomy is mostly done on COPD patients when they develop a condition known as emphysema, which absolutely destroys the patient’s air sacs.
COPD, also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a chronic medical condition that triggers extensive damage to the lungs, interfering with its functioning. In COPD, the lungs and the air sacs or the alveoli undergo severe inflammation that gives rise to a host of complications including wheezing, shortness of breath and other related breathing troubles. While an early medical assistance is instrumental in proper management and treatment of COPD, in most cases, the associated symptoms and discomfort appear at a later stage (when the lungs have already undergone damage and inflammation). Thus, a proper awareness about COPD is necessary. In this article, we will discuss some important points related to COPD to help people understand the condition better.
While there can be a plethora of triggers, two of the medical conditions that elevate the incidence of COPD are Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema. The bronchial tubules functions as a carrier transporting the air (oxygenated and deoxygenated) from the lungs to the different body parts and vice versa.
For long people were of the opinion that COPD only affects people who smoke. However, various surveys suggest that COPD does affect non-smokers as well. While smoking does make a person more susceptible to the condition (COPD as well as Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema), other factors such as chronic and severe neonatal lung ailments or prolonged exposure to the harmful gases and lung irritants can also act as triggers.
Though the incidences of COPD are relatively higher in people above 45 years, the young adults or the middle-aged can also be affected. Also, COPD is not limited to males and can affect females as well. Some of the symptoms associated with COPD include chest tightness, wheezing, breathlessness, chronic cough (often with mucus). These symptoms are quite similar to those of Asthma with people often confusing between the conditions. Thus, a proper diagnosis is vital. Spirometry is a lung test used in the diagnosis of COPD. This test evaluates the functioning of the lungs by measuring the amount of air inhaled and exhaled.
When we talk about the treatment or management of COPD, quitting smoking does improve the condition. For people with breathing troubles and chronic cough, the Bronchodilators (can be long-acting or short-acting Bronchodilators depending on the extent of the discomfort) comes as a great relief. The use of corticosteroids (inhaled) can go a long way to alleviate the inflammation of the airways.
In extreme cases with reduced oxygen reaching the blood, a person may need Oxygen Therapy to improve the condition. Of late the Pulmonary rehabilitation program have been benefiting people in dealing with COPD better. The program involves an amalgamation of counselling sessions to educate the people about the diet and nutrition, precautions to be followed along with some healthy lifestyle changes.
Lungs are part of the respiratory system, and their main job is to bring fresh air into the body and remove waste gases from the body.
What do the Lungs do?
Now that we know the major role of our lungs play in keeping us healthy, it is important that we know the ways to keep them in best of health to lead a problem-free life.
Importance of diet in maintaining lungs health:
Eat right and keep yourself hydrated is essential for keeping your lungs healthy. Mentioned below are a few foods that are great for the lungs:
The air that we breathe in has become a cauldron of harmful and poisonous gases, particulate matter, chemical fumes and a host of similar toxic substances. Pollution, especially of the air is at an all-time rise. The quality of air is deteriorating with each passing day, triggering a plethora of health problems. Chronic and severe lung and respiratory disorders (such as COPD, Chronic Bronchitis, Asthma, Emphysema), heart and kidney problems, headache, burning eyes, are affecting people (irrespective of their age and sex) like never before. As per WHO, nearly 6.5 million premature deaths worldwide are reported yearly due to pollution, a depressing statistics indeed! Thus, necessary preventive measures should be followed to keep ourselves and our loved ones protected from the deleterious effects of pollution.
The use of Anti-pollution masks to deal with pollution
N95, N99 and P25 Air Masks
Chronic Bronchitis is a result of inflamed bronchioles (pipes carrying air to alveoli or balloons) that can produce mucus and lead to coughing and difficulty in breathing. When smoking causes inflammation of the bronchioles, constriction or squeezing takes place. This results in wheezing because air is travelling through narrowed tubes.
Emphysema, in short, is basically a dead lung. As smoke travels farther down your respiratory tract, the air sacs in your lungs (alveoli), start popping out or dying. Your bank of alveoli gets depleted over time as you continue your habits. You will notice as you increase your heart rate whether its by running or walking a flight of stairs this activity requires your red blood cells to move faster through the alveoli and have less time to receive oxygen from the lung. This leads to having less oxygen on red blood cells whose job is to deliver oxygen to the rest of the body.
In COPD, Both the airways(pipes) and lung parenchyma are affected by the disease and airflow limitation is progressive. COPD has been predominantly seen in patients above 40-yearold and frequent smokers.
The symptoms indicative of COPD are as follows:
1) Chronic cough - Also referred to as smoker's cough, the cough is relentless and does not subside with regular cough treatment. This is one of the first indications of COPD.
2) Mucus buildup - There is constant built up of mucus which gets expelled during coughing. The person never feels completely clear of mucus, and the regular cough expectorants do not help relieve the symptoms.
3) Fatigue associated with limited activity - As noted earlier, the reduced capacity of the organs limits their activities. Therefore, regular activities like walking short distances or climbing stairs can induce fatigue.
4) Shortness of breath - The above fatigue is associated with shortness of breath, even with small physical exertion. A person with COPD will see marked tiredness and reduced ability to perform routine chores and feel a tightness in the chest.
5) Wheezing - Passage of air through the obstructed air tubes produces a whistling sound or wheezing. It is more pronounced when there is mucus accumulation in the airways.
While there is no cure for COPD, once it sets, the following are some ways to slow its progression and reduce severity of the symptoms:
1) Bronchodilators - Dilate the air tubes and ease flow of air
2) Corticosteroids - Help reduce inflammation and thereby improve airflow through the tubes
3) Flu vaccination - Helps curb the frequent flu attacks
4) Antibiotics - To contain infections
5) Pulmonary rehabilitation - A combination of breathing exercise and patient education to improve lung function.
6) Oxygen therapy - In very severe cases, oxygen may be required.
7) Lifestyle changes - Eating healthy foods, preventing exposure to dust and smoke, quitting smoking, breathing exercises, bi-annual medical check-ups to monitor lung functions are essential.
Knowing that you have COPD is the first step towards managing COPD, which can be managed effectively.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD for short is a respiratory disease that makes it increasingly difficult to breathe; the lungs stop functioning properly. There are mainly two categories of COPD which are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The primary reason for COPD is longstanding exposure to substances such as cigarette smoke, chemical fumes and air pollutants that damage the lungs gradually.
Initially, the symptoms of COPD may be really mild but over time it may become extremely severe. These include symptoms such as:
In the long run, the damages can prove to be permanent.
Of the two subtypes mentioned, bronchitis is when the airways become inflamed as well as narrowed. People suffering from bronchitis tend to produce sputum which is basically a combination of mucus and saliva.
And the other subtype, Emphysema is the condition when the air sacs in the lungs become affected. The air sacs degenerate and become baggy with lots of holes in it. This, in turn, traps air. This narrows the airways making it difficult to breathe. In COPD, there is a narrowing of the lungs because:
COPD, in the long run, can lead to a number of health complications such as heart disorders, lung cancer, respiratory infections, depression and high blood pressure. COPD is treatable but not curable because it is a life-long condition. The following are some of the treatment methods for COPD:
Adopting certain lifestyle changes can provide relief for the time being. Such alterations include:
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?