Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a bunch of lung ailments that unease the breathing. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are known to contribute towards COPD. These two conditions commonly strike together and can vary in severity among people suffering from this condition. COPD can cause repeated coughing that yields a large amount of mucus which is a slimy substance. This long term condition will make it difficult for you to breathe. If this doesn't get medical attention; it can make one's day to day life a struggle.

Symptoms

COPD symptoms can differ from one person to another. Here are some of the common ones:

  • Experiencing shortness of breath during a physical activity like exercise.
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling tightness in the chest
  • A chronic cough that may produce mucus (may be clear, white, yellow or greenish).
  • Increased frequency of respiratory infections, such as flu or influenza.
  • Lack of energy
  • Weight loss (In later stages)
  • Inflammation in ankles, feet or legs

Causes

The causes can differ according to an individual's environment and habits. Some of the common causes are listed below:

  • Exposure to certain gases and dust at work can induce COPD in an individual. Some of the harmful elements include cadmium dust and fumes, grain and flour dust, silica dust, welding fumes, isocyanates and coal dust. Your vulnerability increases when you have a smoking habit.
  • Smoking is the primary cause. People with chronic smoking habit are more vulnerable to emphysema. You can contract it from tobacco products, such as cigar and pipe smoke, especially if you breathe in the smoke.
  • In rare cases, the disease results from a genetic disorder that causes low levels of a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAt). AAt is produced in the liver and secreted into the bloodstream to help protect the lungs.
  • People with Asthma have higher chances of contracting COPD. Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the air passage.

Treatment

There is no cure for COPD yet; however, changing your lifestyle and habits can help you reduce the symptoms. Here are some of the treatment measures:

  • Quit the smoking habit: As this is the prime reason one suffers from this condition. If you have trouble quitting smoking on your own, many hospitals, workplaces, and community groups offer classes to help people quit smoking.
  • Medications are available, which will relieve your symptoms. Bronchodilators are medications that usually come in the form of inhales which relax the muscles around your airways. Other medications like oral steroids, antibiotics and theophylline can help you deal with the symptoms.
  • Lung therapies are available in two forms Oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation. In oxygen therapy, several devices deliver oxygen to your lungs, including lightweight, portable units that you can take with you to run errands. In pulmonary rehabilitation, exercise training, nutrition advice and counselling are combined.
  • Surgery: lung transplant and bullectomy are the procedures used in severe cases.
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