Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. It's caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke. People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions. COPD is treatable. With proper management, most people with COPD can achieve good symptom control and quality of life, as well as reduced risk of other associated conditions.

Causes of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The main cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. However, other conditions, traits or habits may also play a role in raising your risk for this disease. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing COPD.

  • Family history/Genetics
  • Older age between 40 and 60 years old
  • Pre-existing asthma condition

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse
  • Workplace exposure to dust and other fumes

Other conditions that may lead to developing of COPD

  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis: inflammation and irritation of the bronchial tubes.
  • Air pollution: a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air (i.e. car emissions, chemicals from factories, dust, pollen, among others).

Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD symptoms often don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred. Some of the most common symptoms of COPD include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
  • A chronic cough that may produce mucus

Diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD is commonly misdiagnosed and typically not diagnosed until the disease is advanced. To diagnose your condition, your doctor will review your signs and symptoms, discuss your family and medical history, and discuss any exposure you've had to cigarette smoke. Your doctor may order several tests to diagnose your condition. These tests may include:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Most people have mild forms of the disease for which little therapy is needed other than smoking cessation. Even for more advanced stages of disease, effective therapy is available that can control symptoms, reduce your risk of complications and exacerbations, and improve your ability to lead an active life. Some treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes

Medications

  • Bronchodilators will help relax the muscles around your airways. This can help relieve coughing and shortness of breath and make breathing easier.
  • Inhaled steroids can reduce airway inflammation and help prevent exacerbations.
  • Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors will help decrease airway inflammation and relaxes the airways.

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