COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD, the term used for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a very common lung disease. COPD is the lung disease seen most often among all the different types of diseases of the lung. It is a dangerous and life-threatening disease since it can make it difficult to breathe and accompanies a rough, hacking cough much of the type. Two forms of COPD exist; chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis includes a long-term cough and emphysema is when the lungs are gradually damaged over time. Most of the people with COPD will have a combination of these two conditions.

Causes of COPD

COPD is a form of lung cancer, therefore one of the more common causes of the disease is smoking cigarettes and being exposed to cigarette smoke. You have a higher risk of developing COPD if you have been smoking heavily for a long period of time or been exposed to secondhand smoke for a long time. However, not everyone who smokes will get COPD and not everyone with COPD has smoked or been exposed to secondhand smoke. Other risk factors for the disease include exposure to gas or fumes in the workplace, exposure to pollution, and not having proper ventilation when cooking with fire on a regular basis.

Symptoms of COPD

A variety of signs and symptoms exist for people who have COPD which are similar to the signs and symptoms of lung cancer and other diseases of the lung. These symptoms include fatigue, hacking cough with or without mucus, respiratory infections that are persistent, shortness of breath, wheezing, lung pain and discomfort, and the inability to breathe or catch your breath after physical activity. Symptoms can come on quickly but are usually very slow and gradual.

Diagnosing COPD

To diagnose COPD, your physician will typically start with a physical examination followed by a spirometry test. The spirometry test will involve you blowing into a machine as hard as you can which tests your lung capacity. The doctor will receive instant results from the spirometry and uses the results to determine whether or not other tests should be performed. These include a blood test, radiation exposure, running on a treadmill, CT scan, and X-ray.

Treating COPD

There is currently no cure for COPD, but there are several treatment options. First and foremost, someone diagnosed with COPD must quit smoking immediately or get out of exposure to secondhand smoke. Quitting smoking will slow down the damage to your lungs as soon as the first week. There are also medications used to treat COPD and slow down the lung damage including inhaled steroids which reduce inflammation, inhalers used to open your airways including albuterol, Serevent or Spiriva, and anti-inflammatory medications like Singulair. Additional treatment includes the use of oxygen therapy if it has advanced to cutting off your air circulation.

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