Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, cough, mucus production and wheezing. It’s caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke.
COPD symptoms often don’t appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time, particularly if smoking exposure continues.
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
- Chest tightness
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Lack of energy
- Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
- Swelling in ankles, feet or legs
The main cause of COPD in developed countries is tobacco smoking.
Some smokers develop less common lung conditions. They may be misdiagnosed as having COPD until a more thorough evaluation is performed.
How your lungs are affected ?
a) Air travels down your windpipe and into your lungs through two large tubes.Inside your lungs, these tubes divide many times like the branches of a tree into many smaller tubes that end in clusters of tiny air sacs.
b) The air sacs have very thin walls full of tiny blood vessels (capillaries). The oxygen in the air you inhale passes into these blood vessels and enters your bloodstream. At the same time, carbon dioxide — a gas that is a waste product of metabolism — is exhaled.
Cigarette smoke and other irritants?
a) In the vast majority of cases, the lung damage that leads to COPD is caused by long-term cigarette smoking. But there are likely other factors at play in the development of COPD, such as a genetic susceptibility to the disease, because only about 20 to 30 percent of smokers may develop COPD.
b) Other irritants can cause COPD, including cigar smoke, secondhand smoke, pipe smoke, air pollution and workplace exposure to dust, smoke or fumes.
3) Risk factors
Risk factors for COPD include:
a) Exposure to tobacco smoke.
The most significant risk factor for COPD is long-term cigarette smoking. The more years you smoke and the more packs you smoke, the greater your risk. Pipe smokers, cigar smokers and marijuana smokers also may be at risk, as well as people exposed to large amounts of secondhand smoke.
b) People with asthma who smoke.
The combination of asthma, a chronic inflammatory airway disease, and smoking increases the risk of COPD even more.
COPD develops slowly over years, so most people are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin.
COPD can cause many complications, including:
a) Respiratory infections.
People with COPD are more likely to catch colds, the flu and pneumonia. Any respiratory infection can make it much more difficult to breathe and could cause further damage to lung tissue. An annual flu vaccination and regular vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia can prevent some infections.
b) Heart problems.
For reasons that aren’t fully understood, COPD can increase your risk of heart disease, including heart attack. Quitting smoking may reduce this risk.
c) Lung cancer.
People with COPD have a higher risk of developing lung cancer. Quitting smoking may reduce this risk.
a) Unlike some diseases, COPD has a clear cause and a clear path of prevention. The majority of cases are directly related to cigarette smoking, and the best way to prevent COPD is to never smoke — or to stop smoking now.
b) If you’re a longtime smoker, these simple statements may not seem so simple, especially if you’ve tried quitting — once, twice or many times before. But keep trying to quit. It’s critical to find a tobacco cessation program that can help you quit for good. It’s your best chance for preventing damage to your lungs.