Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD, which stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a chronic progressive disorder that causes shortness of breath by obstructing airflow to and from the lungs. COPD includes groups of lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD typically worsens over a period of time and is treatable and preventable. However, there is currently no cure for COPD.
COPD is caused when the sacs that hold air in the lungs (alveoli) become inelastic, walls between alveoli get destroyed, walls between alveoli become thickened and inflamed, or with excessive mucus production. The most common cause of COPD is smoking cigarettes. Risk factors include exposure to pollutants such as dust, chemicals, or secondhand smoke exposure, exposure to fumes from burning fuel, and/or asthma or other childhood respiratory diseases.
Individuals with COPD may have “exacerbations” where their symptoms are more intense for a period of time. Symptoms of COPD include:
Shortness of breath (especially with exertion)
Frequent respiratory illnesses
Lower extremity swelling
Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds
COPD can be treated by quitting smoking and avoiding pollutants along with medication prescribed by a doctor or health professional such as bronchodilators, combined inhalers, steroids, and/or antibiotics. Supplemental oxygen or surgery such as lung volume reduction, lung transplant, and bullectomy may be required. Lifestyle changes such as exercising and eating a healthy diet coupled with pulmonary rehabilitation and exacerbation management can be helpful as well.
The best way to prevent COPD is to avoid or quit smoking since smoking is the number one cause of COPD. COPD can also be prevented by avoiding pollutant exposure, receiving regular vaccinations, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet.
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Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, April 15). COPD. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/copd/symptoms-causes/syc-20353679
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). COPD. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/copd
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, January 27). COPD. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/copd.html