Exactly What is COPD?
About Emphysema: As is COPD, closely related Emphysema is a chronic life-threatening lung disease which negatively effects breathing. Typical emphysema patient's life-expectency is only 5-years after its diagnosis. With severe emphysema, air is trapped in the lungs, reducing blood oxygenation. Smoking accounts for 85% of people who pass-away from emphysema. Best advice is to stop-smoking NOW and avoid second-hand smoke.
The mission of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease webpage is providing information and knowledge leading to better health starting today about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is a slow progressing non-curable lung disease.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a slowly progressive serious disease of the airways that is characterized by a gradual loss of lung function. It has strong similarities to the lung damage done by chronic emphysema. The disease is also known by its acronym which is COPD, and includes chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive bronchitis, or emphysema, or combinations of these life-threatening medical conditions. It represents the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S.
In some people, the start of a chronic cough and its related sputum production are the first signs they are at risk for developing the airflow obstruction and shortness of breath characteristic of "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease" In other people, shortness of breath may be the first evidence they have developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
In the US the most important risk factor for COPD by far is cigarette smoking. Pipe, cigar, other types of tobacco smoking, and passive exposure to cigarette smoke are also risk factors. Other documented causes of COPD include occupational dusts and chemicals. Outdoor air pollution adds to the total burden of inhaled particles in the lungs, but its role in causing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is not certain.
The most important measure for preventing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – and for stopping disease progression – is avoidance of smoking. Also visit the emphysema organization for more information on how to stop smoking and potentially save your life, including slowing-down lung disease progression.
The diagnosis of "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease" is confirmed by the presence of air-way obstruction on testing with spirometry. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for COPD at this time. Chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease treatment is usually supportive and designed to relieve chronic obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms and also improve quality of life.
With continued exposure to cigarettes or noxious particles, the disease progresses and individuals with COPD increasingly lose their ability to breathe. Acute infections or certain weather conditions may temporarily worsen symptoms (exacerbations), occasionally where hospitalization may be required.
COPD develops slowly, and it may be many years before you notice symptoms like feeling short of breath. Most of the time, COPD is diagnosed in middle-aged or older people.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a major cause of death and illness, and it's the 4th leading cause of death in the USA and throughout the world.
There is no cure for COPD. The damage to your airways and lung disease damage cannot be reversed, however there are things you can do to feel better and slow the damage caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and progression of lung disease.
COPD is not contagious and you cannot catch it from someone who already you has the lung disease.
Who is at Risk for COPD?
Most people with chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease (COPD) are smokers or former smokers. People with a family history of COPD are more likely to get the disease if they smoke. The chance of developing COPD is also greater in people who have spent many years in contact with lung irritants, such as: Air pollution - Chemical fumes, vapors, and dusts usually linked to certain jobs
A person who has had frequent and severe lung infections, especially during childhood, may have a greater chance of developing lung damage that can lead to chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease. Fortunately, this is much less common today with anti-biotic treatments.
Most people with COPD are at least 40-years old or middle age when symptoms start. It is unusual, but possible for people younger than 40-years old to have COPD.
The signs and symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease include the following listed below:
- Sputum (mucus) production
- Shortness of breath, especially with exercise
- Wheezing - which is a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe
- Chest tightness
A cough that doesn't go away and coughing up lots of mucus are common signs of COPD. These often occur years before the flow of air in and out of the lungs is reduced. However, not everyone with a cough and sputum production goes on to develop Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and not everyone with COPD has a cough.
The symptoms of "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease" can range from chronic cough and sputum production to severe disabling shortness of breath. The severity of the symptoms depends on how much of the lung has been destroyed. If you continue to smoke, the lung destruction is faster than if you stop smoking.
How the Lungs Work
The lungs provide a very large surface area (the size of a football field) for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the body and the environment.
A slice of normal lung looks like a pink sponge filled with tiny bubbles or holes. These bubbles, surrounded by a fine network of tiny blood vessels, give the lungs a large surface to exchange oxygen into the blood where it is carried throughout the body by veins and arteries and removes carbon dioxide (out of the blood). This process is called gas exchange, which healthy lungs do well.
Here is how normal breathing works:
You breathe in air through your nose and mouth. The air travels down through your windpipe (trachea) then through large and small tubes in your lungs called bronchial tubes. The larger tubes are bronchi, and the smaller tubes are bronchioles. Sometimes the word "airways" is used to refer to the various tubes or passages that air must travel through from the nose and mouth into the lungs. The airways in your lungs look something like an upside-down tree with many branches.
At the ends of the small bronchial tubes, there are groups of tiny air sacs called alveoli. The air sacs have very thin walls, and small blood vessels called capillaries run in the walls. Oxygen passes from the air sacs into the blood in these small blood vessels. At the same time, carbon dioxide passes from the blood into the air sacs. Carbon dioxide, a normal by product of the body's metabolism, must be removed.
The airways and air sacs in the lung are normally elastic—that is, they try to spring back to their original shape after being stretched or filled with air, just the way a new rubber band or balloon would. This elastic quality helps retain the normal structure of the lung and helps to move the air quickly in and out. In COPD, much of the elastic quality is gone, and the airways and air sacs no longer bounce back to their original shape.
This means the airways collapse, like a floppy garden hose, and air sacs tend to stay inflated. The floppy airways obstruct the airflow out of the lungs, leading to an abnormal increase in the lungs' size. In addition, the airways may become inflamed and thickened, and mucus-producing cells produce more mucus, further contributing to the difficulty of getting air out of the lungs.
Causes of "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease"
Smoking Is the Most Common Cause of COPD
Most cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) develop after repeatedly breathing in fumes and other things that irritate and damage the lungs and airways. Cigarette smoking is the most common irritant that causes COPD. Pipe, cigar, and other types of tobacco smoke can also cause COPD, especially if the smoke is inhaled. Breathing in other fumes and dusts over a long period of time may also cause COPD. The lungs and airways are highly sensitive to these irritants. They cause the airways to become inflamed and narrowed, and they destroy the elastic fibers that allow the lung to stretch and then return to its resting shape. This makes breathing air in and out of the lungs more difficult.
Other things that may irritate the lungs and contribute to COPD include:
- Working around certain chemicals and breathing in the fumes for many years, including asbestos fibres, which may also cause mesothelioma lung cancer
- Working in a dusty area over many years
- Heavy exposure to air pollution
- Being around second-hand smoke (smoke in the air from other people smoking cigarettes) also plays a role in an individual developing COPD.
Genes are tiny bits of information in your body cells passed on by your parents and may play a role in developing COPD. In rare cases, COPD is caused by a gene-related disorder called alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency. Alpha 1 antitrypsin is a protein in your blood that inactivates destructive proteins. People with antitrypsin deficiency have low levels of alpha 1 antitrypsin; the imbalance of proteins leads to the destruction of the lungs and COPD. If people with this condition smoke, the disease progresses more rapidly.