Conditions that induce obstructed airflow in the lungs are referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two types of COPD, with symptoms including chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing.
According to experts, smoking is a prominent cause of COPD, but in other situations, a hereditary variant of the illness can develop.
COPD affects roughly 16 million individuals in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source. Experts think, however, that this figure is larger due to an unknown number of misdiagnosed instances.
The page goes through the causes of COPD, as well as the risk factors, treatments, and preventative methods.
COPD symptoms might start as modest and gradually develop as the condition worsens. Symptoms vary from person to person depending on the underlying cause and severity of COPD.
The following are some of the most common COPD symptoms:
- shortness of breath
- chest constriction
- coughing with or without mucous
- depression due to lowered exercise tolerance
COPD is caused by a variety of factors:
Cigarette smoking is responsible for up to 90% of COPD cases in the United States. The chemicals in cigarettes can harm the lungs’ air sacs over time.
The flexibility of the tiny air sacs is lost, impairing the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This injury to the lungs also causes edoema and inflammation, which makes breathing difficult.
Although smoking is the most prevalent cause of COPD, the condition can also be caused by a genetic mutation.
Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency is a hereditary disorder in which the body’s capacity to produce the protein AAT, which is typically found in the lungs and circulation, is impaired.
It protects the lungs against inflammation-related damage, which can lead to emphysema and COPD. People with insufficient amounts of this protein in their systems are more prone to develop emphysema at an earlier age.
AAT insufficiency affects roughly 1 in every 2,500 persons, according to Trusted Source.
Factors that are at risk:
The most significant risk factor for COPD is smoking. Additional COPD risk factors may include:
- secondhand smoke inhalation
- Toxic substances in the environment, such as chemicals, fumes, and dust
- exposure to pollution in the air
- a history of TB or other lung illnesses
A doctor can diagnose COPD using a variety of methods. These may include the following:
Medical history and physical examination: Doctors look at your medical history, particularly your smoking history, to see whether you have COPD risk factors.
They also do a physical examination, which includes listening to lung sounds and diagnosing COPD symptoms.
Chest X-ray: A chest X-ray alone does not detect COPD. However, it helps evaluate other conditions, such as pneumonia and lung cancer.
Pulmonary function test: A pulmonary function test includes using spirometry to diagnose COPD. The test evaluates lung function by measuring how well a person can get air in and out of the lungs. Interpreting the spirometry results helps confirm a diagnosis of COPD in addition to the severity of the disease.
Arterial blood gas: Doctors may order an arterial blood gas (ABG), which involves taking a blood sample to measure the blood’s carbon dioxide and oxygen levels. Though it does not diagnose COPD, it can provide clues. It assists in providing information on how well gas exchange occurs in the lungs.
AAT deficiency screen: This screening involves obtaining a blood sample to identify the presence of an AAT deficiency.
The prognosis for people with COPD varies greatly and often requires the consultation of a doctor.
The stage of COPD a person has, the severity of shortness of breath, and the number of acute flareups that result in hospitalizations can affect projected life expectancy.
A 2020 study looked at life expectancy and loss of life expectancy depending on the stage of COPD. Researchers found that people with severe stage COPD had about 8–9 years of reduced life expectancy in certain cases.
Although there is currently no cure for COPD, treatments are often effective in reducing symptoms, improving quality of life, and slowing the progression of the disease.
Appropriate strategies often depend on the stage of COPD and present symptoms. Treatment usually includes a combination of the interventions below.
Lifestyle changes may play a significant role in the treatment and management of COPD.
Helpful lifestyle changes can include:
Quitting smoking: Quitting smoking is essential to help slow down the progression of COPD.
Reducing lung irritants: Avoiding air pollution and other lung irritants, such as fumes and chemicals, as much as possible can also help manage symptoms and exacerbation.
Exercising regularly: Participating in regular exercise can strengthen the heart and improve cardiovascular function in those with COPD.
Doctors may prescribe various types of medication to treat COPD.
Such medications may include:
Bronchodilators: Bronchodilators open up the airway to make breathing easier. They may help reduce wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
Steroids: Steroids decrease inflammation in the lungs. Doctors can recommend administering these steroids through inhalation, pills, or IV fluids.
Antibiotics: Antibiotics can help treat lung infections that may occur in people with COPD.
People diagnosed with COPD may have low blood oxygen levels. Administering supplemental oxygen therapy through a mask or nasal cannula may improve breathlessness.
Pulmonary rehabilitation therapy provides education and support for people with COPD. The program often involves a series of classes by healthcare professionals — these classes may include information on breathing exercises, proper exercise and nutrition plans, and medication management.
Bi-level positive airway pressure
Bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP), or BPAP, is a form of noninvasive ventilation breathing support for the lungs.
BiPAP uses a machine to deliver pressure to the airway through a mask that an individual wears. The air pressure helps decrease the effort a person needs to breathe, reduces high carbon dioxide levels, and improves oxygen levels. It may help people who have trouble getting carbon dioxide out of their lungs.
The best way to reduce the risk of COPD is to avoid smoking. For people who already smoke, quitting is vital to prevent COPD. Avoiding secondhand smoke from cigarettes, pipes, and cigars also helps prevent these conditions.
When to speak with a doctor
Many COPD symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness, can develop with several other less threatening conditions. However, when respiratory symptoms persist without a known cause, an individual should speak with their doctor.
Diagnosing COPD as soon as possible helps the healthcare team develop a rapid action plan to treat COPD symptoms and help slow the progression of the disease.
COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, involves lung diseases that block airflow in the lungs. The primary cause of COPD is smoking cigarettes. However, in rare cases, a person could have an AAT deficiency, an inherited, genetic form of COPD.
Currently, there is no cure for COPD, and the disease has the potential to progress. Treatments, such as lifestyle changes, medication, and oxygen therapy, can help reduce symptoms and slow disease progression.
Avoiding and quitting smoking is the primary method for preventing COPD.
Reference: Medical News Today