All you need to know about COPD

All you need to know about COPD

COPD expands to read Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Developing slowly over time and causing an obstruction in the normal functioning of the lungs, this is a chronic condition that stays on forever. Millions of people in the country suffer from COPD and they usually have at least one of the following lung conditions: chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or refractory asthma.

In chronic bronchitis, the airways that carry air to and from the lungs, i.e. the bronchial tubes, become inflamed, causes the chest to tighten and makes breathing difficult. The hair-like structures inside the lungs that maintain the level of mucus are damaged and causes a severe cough accompanied by the discharge of phlegm. Emphysema, which is another type of COPD, refers to the damage caused to the air sacs in the lungs. The air sacs lose their elasticity causing the lungs to expand, causing obstruction to the free movement of both oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the lungs. This also causes breathlessness, wheezing, reduced appetite, and fatigue. Refractory asthma is where the bronchial airways tighten up and become enlarged causing chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing and persistent wheezing. Medications that rectify asthma symptoms, unfortunately, do not work in the case of refractory asthma.

Basically, the inflammation, narrowing, and damage caused to the lungs cause COPD. Airborne irritants, and particularly cigarette smoking, is one of the most common reasons that lead to the onset of COPD. Around 90% of people battling conditions of COPD are smokers who either have the habit now, or have been heavy smokers in the past, or are secondhand/passive smokers who inhale the smoke from other people nearby. But repeated respiratory infections, breathing in polluted air, chemical fumes, and fine industrial dust like tiny particles of silica or coal over a long period of time could also cause damage to the lungs and increase the chances of developing COPD. In some rare cases, COPD can be caused by a genetic disorder because of the deficiency of the Alpha-1-Antitrypsin protein that helps in protecting the lungs.

Surprisingly affecting more women than men, and especially those who are middle-aged and older, COPD can also remain in people for many years without being diagnosed. The symptoms of COPD can flare up all of a sudden with no particular trigger and is one of the leading causes of death in the country. COPD is considered a progressive health condition that cannot be fully cured. However, the symptoms can be relieved with medicines, and positive lifestyle changes enable patients to lead a good quality life and also prevent the onset of other associated diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, depression, and anxiety. While the life expectancy of people suffering from COPD does tend to decrease, more for smokers than non-smokers, the patient’s general health condition, the presence of other concurring ailments along with the primary health issue like comorbidity, all play a role in the prognosis.

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