What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD, is a group of progressive lung diseases. It includes two conditions emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema slowly destroys air sacs in your lungs, which interferes with outward air flow. Bronchitis causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which allows mucus to build up.

COPD means lungs burnt by smoke exposure for many years.

Untreated, COPD can lead to a faster progression of disease, heart problems, and worsening respiratory infections.

What is COPD
What are Signs and symptoms of COPD?

Symptoms often do not appear until significant lung damage has occurred.Usual symptoms are as follows:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy
  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
  • Swelling at ankles, feet or legs
symptoms of COPD
What causes COPD?

COPD is most likely to result from:

  • Smoking
    This is by far the most common reason people get COPD. You can also get it from tobacco products, such as cigar and pipe smoke, especially if you breathe in the smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke
    Even if you arenot a smoker, you can get COPD by remaining in company of a smoker for many years.
  • Pollution and fumes
    One can get COPD from air pollution. Breathing in chemical fumes, dust, or toxic substances at work can also cause it.
  • Your genes
    In rare cases, people with COPD have a defect in their genes, the code that tells your body how to work properly. Known genes include “alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency,” or AAT deficiency. When you have this, your lungs donot have enough of a protein needed to protect them from damage. This can lead to severe COPD. If you or a family member had serious COPD — especially at a young age — ask your doctor about testing for AAT deficiency or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
  • Asthma
    If you don’t treat your asthma, lung damage over time can lead to COPD.
How is COPD diagnosed?

Doctor will know patient’s medical history, any family history of COPD, as well as any symptoms patient might have and how long patient had them.

The key symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath, a cough that doesnott go away, and a thick, often colored mucus (phlegm) that you cough up.

Other symptoms, especially in later stages of the disease, may include:

  • Tight feeling in chest
  • Less ability to stay active
  • Less sexual activity
  • Weight gain (because you can’t be as active)
  • Weight loss (because of breathing problems while eating)
  • Symptoms that are worse in the morning (typical for COPD)

Doctor will definitely want to know about any of those symptoms when they assess patient. Doctor also want to know about any smoking by you or anyone in your home, as smoking is the biggest risk factor for COPD. Long-term exposure to fumes, pollution, or dust is also a risk factor for COPD.

One must keep in mind that in the early stages, patient may have no symptoms at all. Or the signs may be very subtle — something like being a little more tired from basic tasks like walking up stairs or bringing in your groceries.

It is important to diagnose your COPD as soon as you can because, though there’s currently no cure, early treatment can do much to slow the progress of the disease.

Risk factors of COPD
What tests are required for COPD?

Spirometry: If you are at risk for COPD or have symptoms of COPD, you should be tested for spirometry. Spirometry is a simple test of how well your lungs work. For this test, you blow air into a mouthpiece and tubing attached to a small machine. The machine measures the amount of air you blow out and how fast you can blow it.

Spirometry can detect COPD before symptoms develop. Your doctor also might use the test results to find out how severe your COPD is and to help set your treatment goals.

Other tests: Your doctor may also want you to have a chest X-ray and/or other tests, such as an arterial blood gas test, which measures the oxygen level in your blood. This test can show how well your lungs are able to move oxygen into your blood and remove carbon dioxide from your blood.

How is COPD treated?

When patients are diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, patients likely will have many questions and the answers may not always be clear in beginning. Different people have different symptoms and their treatment differs in same way .

COPD Medications

A variety of medicines are used to treat COPD. Each person’s COPD is different and your doctor and healthcare team will work with you to set up the best plan to address your symptoms and needs. Learn more about your treatment options

By taking the right medicine at the right time, one can:

  • Breathe better
  • Do more of the things, you enjoy
  • Have fewer flare-ups or exacerbations

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

If you or someone you love suffers from a chronic lung disease like COPD, there is hope for rebuilding strength and enjoying a fuller, more active life. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs typically combine education, exercise training, nutrition advice and counseling.

Supplemental Oxygen

Your body needs oxygen to do everything from digesting food, daily household chores, to going to the grocery store. Sometimes with COPD, you require extra or supplemental oxygen (also called oxygen therapy).


Some people with very severe COPD symptoms may have a hard time breathing all of the time. In some of these cases, doctors may suggest lung surgery to improve breathing. Not everyone is a candidate for lung surgery.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that test how well new medical approaches work in people. Each study answers scientific questions and tries to find better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose or treat a disease. People who take part in clinical trials for COPD have an opportunity to contribute to knowledge of and progress against COPD

Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies refer to the many therapies, philosophies and practices that are not considered conventional or standard medical care in the United States. Some examples of complementary therapy included massage, yoga and acupuncture. These techniques can’t treat COPD, but may be able to improve symptoms and quality of life.

Palliative Care and COPD

Palliative care is a specialty in medicine focused on treating the symptoms, pain and stress that accompany serious illnesses like COPD. It is available to you from the moment you are diagnosed and through the entire course of your illness. The goal of palliative care is to help you and your family, achieve the highest quality of life.

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