Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a group of progressive lung diseases. It is an inflammatory condition of the lungs that causes blockage of airflow from the lungs. Most common conditions that cause COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
- Emphysema: damage to air sacs (alveoli) in lungs over time as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke and other irritants
- Chronic bronchitis: involves long term inflammation of the lining of airways (bronchial tubes) and occurrence of cough with mucus or sputum production.
Major cause of COPD is smoking.
- Cigarette or tobacco smoking
- Second hand smoking
- Exposure to pollutants such as chemicals and fumes
- Frequent use of cooking fire without proper ventilation
Symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease usually develop slowly and may be left unnoticed or unrecognized in the initial stages. Some of the symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Intermittent coughing
- Chest tightness
- Excess sputum production
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Unintended weight loss in later stages
- Swollen ankles, feet or legs
Diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease includes:
- Review of signs and symptoms
- Family history
- Medical history
- Physical exam
- Imaging tests: CT scan, chest X-rays
- Arterial blood gas tests
- Laboratory tests
The best way to prevent COPD is to avoid smoking or to quit smoking if you are already a smoker.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has no cure. Treatment can control the symptoms, slow down progression of the condition and reduce further complications.
- Quitting smoking is the first and foremost measure in the treatment of COPD.
- Medications such as bronchodilators, glucocorticosteroids, quick relief drugs and long term antibiotics are used for COPDs.
- Oxygen therapy may be recommended when you need supplemental oxygen as the oxygen level in blood is low.
- Surgery is recommended in severe conditions. Some of the procedures are:
- Bullectomy: surgical removal of large abnormal spaces (Bullae) from the lungs
- Lung volume reduction surgery: removes damaged upper lung tissue
- Lung transplantation: surgical replacement of a diseased lung with a healthy one.
- Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, healthy diet, regular exercise and drinking plenty of water are effective measures in the treatment of COPD.
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