COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a group of multiple lung diseases. It causes the obstruction of airflow from the lungs.
Usually, people who are suffering from COPD may feel difficulty in breathing, wheezing, mucus in their coughs. It can be fatal for you because as it advances may lead you to heart diseases. It happens due to long-term exposure to smoke, irritants, dust, and fumes. It can even cause you lung cancer so you should properly diagnose whenever you came to know that you are suffering from it. The most common conditions of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Emphysema is a lung disease that occurs when you smoke regularly and to those who breathe in irritants. It destroys the alveoli of your lungs which are air sacs in it. Gradually your alveoli get weaken and eventually got broken. It makes your lung’s inner lines so thin that ultimately your lungs could not work properly.
Bronchitis occurs due to the inflammation in bronchial tubes in your lungs. These are the tubes that carry the airflow to the lungs and similarly from your lungs. People who are suffering from it may experience thick black mucus in their coughs.
It is an estimate that every year almost 25 to 35 million people have suffered from COPD. And there are some people who are even not aware of this disease. If you remain untreated then you can be at risk of developing other diseases.
Symptoms of COPD
It has been seen that COPD symptoms don’t appear suddenly until severe damage occurs to your lungs. You should be aware of the symptoms unless they got worsen over time. Some of the key symptoms are as below:
- Shortness of breath is a very common symptom in lungs related diseases but you have to be careful about it.
- Severe wheezing can be experienced.
- COPD may tighten your chest.
- Due to the lung’s disease, you may experience severe coughs with black mucus in them. For some people, they can be clear, yellow, or green.
- You may experience respiratory problems more often.
- Energy drain and lack of appetite can be a sign of COPD.
- You have to keep track of your weight because you may experience weight loss.
- Your ankles, feet, or legs may swell.
COPD symptoms usually occur in episodes called exacerbations[i]. It is a sign of your symptoms are getting out of your hands.
Causes of COPD
In developed countries, the main cause of COPD is smoking. People who live near industrial areas are more likely to have COPD than other people because of fumes coming out of the chimneys are dangerous for health. People who are breathing constantly in this environment are at risk. If your home is poorly ventilated then there is a chance that you may suffer from COPD over time. People who smoke way beyond their limits are highly likely to have COPD than passive smokers. Smokers can be misdiagnosed with COPD because they have developed other lungs conditions this is why in their case thorough check-up is required.
Genes play an important role in developing certain diseases from your ancestors. There is a chance that you may develop COPD due to genetic predisposition. People with protein alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency are vulnerable. This deficiency can be a cause of deterioration of the lungs and it can even affect your liver.
People who have asthma are vulnerable to COPD. Asthma patients are already suffering from lung conditions then the chances of having COPD are greater than a normal person.
Risk Factors of COPD
The major risk factors of COPD are as follows:
- If you are a long-term smoker then you are at risk of developing COPD over the period and it is a very significant factor of which people are ignorant. There are many other types of smoking like Pipe smoking, Cigars, and marijuana smoking can be a risk factor for you. There is a study that approximately 80 to 90 percent of people die because of smoking all around the world.
- As we have talked about asthma above, it is a common risk factor.
- If your occupation includes dust and chemical pollutants then you have to seriously think about it other than if you are working in an isolated environment.
- Age is the biggest factor in the development of many diseases. COPD is one of many.
It can cause numerous complications depending on the current situation of your lungs. Some of them are as given below:
- COPD can cause severe respiratory infections and the chances are high that you may catch colds, pneumonia, and flu. It can make it more difficult for you to breathe and even you can choke.
- It is still unknown that why COPD causes heart diseases but it is how it is. You are might be at risk of a minor or major heart attack.
- There are many people around the world who die because of lung cancer every year. People who are suffering from COPD are at risk of developing lung cancer.
- If you constantly feel difficulty in breathing and couldn’t work out about it then it may lead you to depression. Your daily life becomes miserable and you couldn’t enjoy other activities.
Diagnosis of COPD
When you visit the doctor, he will ask you about you and your family history throughout the period. You have to tell the doctors about all of your activities related to the disease like if you smoke or not. Whether you are working in a polluted environment or not.
Doctors may apply several tests on you like a spirometer which is a device that measures the airflow through your lungs. Chest X-Ray can show the internal condition of your lungs and then it can be easy for the doctors to determine the severity of the disease. A CT scan can help you in the detection of emphysema[ii] and can help you to determine if COPD can be operated or not. It can also be used to screen your lung conditions.