COPD: What You Need to Know


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is when the lungs become obstructed due to inflammation and scarring. It is caused by smoking, air pollution, and other environmental factors.

COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide.

COPD is characterized by shortness of breath, chronic cough, and frequent chest infections. The symptoms usually worsen over time and lead to severe pneumonia, heart failure, and lung cancer.

There are two types of COPD: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema is characterized by the destruction of alveoli, the tiny sacs that allow oxygen into the bloodstream. In chronic bronchitis, the mucus becomes thick and inflamed, causing coughing fits.

What are the main symptoms of COPD?

Shortness of Breath – Shortness of breath or dyspnea occurs when you have difficulty breathing because your muscles don’t work correctly. This makes it hard for you to move around quickly. Your doctor may ask how often you feel this way and whether there’s anything else making you breathe harder than usual.

Chest Coughing – A persistent dry hacking cough is another symptom of COPD. People with COPD tend to cough more frequently than people without the disease. They also nd it difficult to clear their throat.

Wheezing – Wheezing means whistling sounds in your voice while talking. These noises occur when air moves through narrowed areas of your windpipe. When these areas get blocked, they make wheezing sounds.

Fatigue – Fatigue is one of the most common complaints among patients suffering from COPD. As your body works harder to compensate for poor air flow, you might experience fatigue even if you’re not doing much physical activity.

Weight Loss – Weight loss is a vital sign of COPD. If you lose weight despite eating enough food, talk to your physician. They will be able to help determine what’s going on.

What are the causes of COPD?

Smoking Cigarettes – Smoking cigarettes is the single most significant risk factor for developing

COPD. Each cigarette contains thousands of chemicals, including nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, ammonia, formaldehyde, arsenic, benzene, hydrogen cyanide, cadmium, and many others. Most smokers develop some degree of COPD within ten years after starting to smoke.

Second hand Smoke Exposure – Secondhand smoke exposure increases the chance of getting COPD. Studies show that secondhand smoke exposure doubles the chances of having COPD.

Children who live with someone who smokes are at higher risk of developing COPD later in life.

Air Pollution – Air pollutants like ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur oxides, particulate matter, and heavy metals contribute to COPD. Breathing polluted air triggers inflammation in the respiratory system.

Inflammation damages cells lining the airways, which results in the narrowing of small air passages called “bronchi.” Over time, the damaged tissue doesn’t grow back correctly and eventually blocks off the passageways completely.

Occupational Risks – Some jobs put workers at high risk for developing COPD. For example, coalminers, construction laborers, fire fighters, police officers, welders, bakers, painters, mechanics, carpenters, roofers, farmers, factory workers, electricians, machinists, truck drivers, and steel workers all face increased risks of developing COPD.

What are the treatments for COPD?

Treatment options depend upon several factors: How severe is the condition? What other health problems do you have? Are you a smoker or a nonsmoker? Do you want to quit Smoking? Is the treatment safe for you? Talk to your healthcare provider about any questions you have regarding your symptoms or diagnosis so they can recommend appropriate care.

Medications – Medication plays a crucial role in treating COPD. It helps improve lung function by relaxing smooth muscle tissues inside the lungs. Inhaled medications include bronchodilators such as albuterol, ipratropium, levalbuterol, metaproterenol, terbutaline, and tiotropium; steroids such as fluticasone propionate, budesonide, mometasone furoate, triamcinolone acetonide, dexamethasone sodium phosphate, prednisone, methylprednisolone acetate, and hydrocortisone; anti-inflammatory agents such as montelukast, nedocromil, and cetirizine hydrochloride; mucolytics such as ambroxol and glycopyrrolate; antibiotics such as clarithromycin, erythromycin, azithromycin, amoxicillin clavulanate potassium, levofloxacin, and trimethoprim sulfa; expectorants such as guaifenesin

Bronchial Therapeutics System – The BTS inhaler delivers medication directly into the lungs where it works best. This medicine is used when there’s no improvement from inhaling through an oral inhaler or nebulizer. You may use this device once every day or more often if needed. Your doctor will help determine how frequently you should use this product.

Inhalers – An inhaler is a tool designed to deliver medicines deep into the lungs. When using an inhaler, breathe slowly through the mouthpiece while holding down the dose button on top of the machine until you hear a click sound. Then take one breath followed immediately by another slow breath. If you don’t get enough medicine into your lungs, repeat these steps. Never double up doses.

Nebulizers – A nebulizer uses pressurized gas to spray liquid medicine into ne mist droplets that reach deeper into the lungs than dry powder inhalers. Nebulizers usually come in two parts—the nebulizer itself and a particular container filled with medicine. Mix one teaspoonful of powdered medicine with two teaspoons of water in a glass measuring cup to prepare the treatment. Pour the mixture into the bottom part of the nebulizer. Put the lid on tightly and shake well before each use.

Shake the bottle vigorously three times before opening it. Hold the nose closed during administration. Use only clean hands to handle the equipment. Dispose of unused solutions properly.

Oral Corticosteroids – Oral corticosteroid therapy is not recommended unless necessary because they cause side effects including weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma, skin thinning, easy bruising, increased risk of infection, peptic ulcer disease, stomach bleeding, and psychosis. These drugs also increase susceptibility to pneumonia. They’re most effective at reducing inflammation caused by allergies and asthma but aren’t very helpful against chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.

Antibiotics – Antibiotic therapy is generally prescribed when bacterial infections occur along with acute exacerbations of COPD. Common respiratory tract bacteria associated with lower airway colonization include Streptococcus pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza, Moraxella catarrhalis, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella spp., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacteriaceae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Legionella pneumophila, Bordatella pertussis, Borrelia burgdorferi, and Coccidioides immitis. Treatment depends on which organisms are involved and whether antibiotic resistance has developed.

Other treatments include oxygen therapy, home mechanical ventilation, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation, exercise training programs, and nutritional supplements.

Home Mechanical Ventilation – HMV can be considered an alternative treatment option for patients with severe lung impairment due to advanced COPD. It provides continuous assistance to keep the patient breathing throughout the night without requiring any effort on their behalf. HMV systems consist of either a ventilator connected to a nasal cannula via tubing or a mask worn over the face.

Avoid Smoking and take care of your lungs. Before taking any medication, consult your doctor!


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