Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to a group of life threatening lung diseases which make breathing difficult in afflicted patients. The disease includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and causes shortness of breath due to a persistent blockage of air in the lungs. Even though COPD is different from asthma, it is often difficult to distinguish between the two in case of chronic asthma.
Following are the common symptoms of COPD:
- Relentless chronic coughing
- Sputum production
- Shortness of breath
Patients who have COPD have difficulty in performing daily chores like climbing short flight of staircases, walking or even carrying small loads.
Causes and Diagnosis
The most common cause of COPD is smoking tobacco. Inhaling the irritating particles in cigarette smoke or air pollutants makes the mucus gland produce more mucus than usual. This causes the glands to swell and the walls of the adjoining bronchi thicken. Prolonged inhalation of few particles over the course of time or inhaling the irritants in massive amounts in a short duration can cause COPD to occur.
COPD is diagnosed with a test called spirometry. The test analysis consists of the quantity of air that a person can inhale or exhale and the speed at which the airflow in the lungs occur. Since the disease develops gradually, it is often diagnosed later in life when a person crosses 40 years of age.
Stats and Curability
More than 12 million people in USA are afflicted by this incurable disease. This is only an estimated figure obtained from the reported cases and there may be many other people who may be affected but not diagnosed yet. In America, COPD is one of the leading causes of death. According to WHO, in 2012 alone, 6% of the entire world population died of COPD.
COPD is a chronic disease which is progressive in nature – this basically means that with time, the disease only worsens. Quite unfortunately, to this date, COPD has no cure.
Who is at risk?
Earlier, COPD was more prevalent in men, but external agents, such as, the increased consumption of tobacco by women in some countries and burning of biomass fuels used to cook food in third world countries have exposed females to this fatal disease as well.
Treatment to reduce the ailment
Despite the fact that COPD is incurable, there are treatments available that can reduce the ailment. Since smoking is one of the foremost causes of COPD, it is essential that one stops smoking. The shortness of breath can be treated with the intake of medicines that dilate the air passageways to the lungs. Flu triggers COPD symptoms. Getting flu shots will minimize the risk of getting influenza. Vaccines like pneumococcal can lower the risk in the patients from getting pneumonia. In severe instances, the badly damaged lung can be transplanted. Oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation programs can also contribute in the well being of the COPD afflicted patient.