Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: What You Need To Know, Treatment Options

What is COPD?

COPD stands for Chronic
Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. This medical condition comprises of two disease
states; chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is known as one of the leading
causes of damaged airways in the lungs. COPD is also attributed as one of the
main causes of blockage in the airways, making it narrower and thus leading to
a struggle for air to get in and out of the lung. This condition, as stated by
the team at Nova Pulmonary Critical
Care and Sleep Associates
is a long-term condition.

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Causes of COPD

One of the most prominent causes
of COPD is cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking has been implicated in a lot of
nasal and respiratory conditions. Cigarette smokes release thousands of
elements which are harmful to the nasal lining and the lungs. Additionally,
cigarette smoke contains enzymes which damage a protein called elastin. Elastin
helps make the lungs elastic.

In addition to smoking, COPD may
also be caused by certain genetic conditions which cause a shortage in the
production of alpha1 antitrypsin by the liver. Shortage of this protein
increases the risk of developing emphysema prematurely and this is most common
in smokers.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of COPD?

There are several symptoms which
point to COPD. While most people may not be aware of this disease condition,
early detection of the signs and symptom may influence better management of the
health and respiratory condition. Some of the common symptoms of COPD include
shortness of breath, breathlessness, tightness of the chest and wheezing,
frequent coughing, and frequent production of mucus as part of coughs.

In complicated cases, persons
with COPD may find it difficult to exercise or walk because the muscles of the
body are starved of appropriate oxygen supply. COPD may also expose victims to
other secondary conditions such as flu and pneumonia, especially as the health
of the lungs have been compromised.

COPD Risk factors

Tobacco use has been attributed
as one of the most common risk factors for COPD. Heavy smokers are liable to
developing the condition while cigarette smokers are at an even greater risk.

In other cases, deficiency of the
alpha-1-anti-trypsin (AAT), a condition also known as familial emphysema, has
been implicated in the disease condition.

About 1% to 3% of all cases of
emphysema have been attributed to the deficiency of AAT. Patients with genetic
deficiency of AAT may develop common symptoms of COPD at a very early stage.

COPD Diagnosis

Early detection of COPD can help
in better managing the condition. However, for diagnosis, the most important
test to be conducted is called the Spirometry. For the spirometry test, the
patient is required to blow into a tube connected to a machine that measures
how much air can be blow out and how quickly it can be blown. The doctor may
also proceed to carry out a chest x-ray on the patient and an arterial blood
test to measure the level of oxygen contained in the patient’s blood.

COPD Treatment options

Once a patient has been diagnosed
with COPD, it is required that such a patient cease to engage in certain
lifestyle activities to avoid worsening the condition. As part of activities
that should be stopped, patients are advised to cease smoking and also avoid
secondhand smoke. In some cases, doctors may proceed to prescribe certain drugs
to better manage the condition. Bronchodilators may be prescribed as they are
active for relaxing the muscles and airways.

In the event the symptoms of COPD
are severe, doctors may also prescribe inhaled steroids to reduce inflammation
in the lungs and in some cases, a combination drug may be prescribed.
Combination drugs include both corticosteroids and bronchodilators.

For patients who suffer low blood
oxygen levels, doctors may recommend oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy, in this
case, is delivered through a nasal cannula which is attached to the oxygen

How Common is COPD?

COPD has become a significant
burden in recent time as there has been an increase in the record of the
condition. In certain parts of India, the condition has been reported to have
witnessed as much as 1 to 2.5% increase. COPD currently accounts for as much as
30% of all visits to the Pulmonary outpatient department and over 2.5% of

Distinguishing COPD from regular
cough and cold

COPD is commonly associated with
shortness of breath, wheezing, and decreased exercise tolerance. These symptoms
however progressively worsen over time. However, seasonal cough and cold are
attributed to changes in temperature or in other cases, allergies as a result
of exposure to pollens and poor air quality.

People suffering from COPD may
suffer from cold and cough due to seasonal changes, however, these may further
worsen the condition and may in some cases lead to hospital admission.