Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two of the most common types of COPD, which are caused by airflow blockage and breathing difficulties. The air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) are damaged by emphysema, which makes them less elastic and less able to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. As a result of chronic bronchitis, the airways (bronchi) in the lungs become inflamed and narrowed, causing mucus production and coughing. As COPD progresses, it can cause serious complications such as heart failure, lung infections, and respiratory failure.
Symptoms of COPD may vary depending on the type and severity of the disease. They may also change over time as the disease progresses.
During physical activity or exertion, shortness of breath may occur
Chronic cough, whether mucus- or non-mucus-producing
Breathing sounds like whistling or wheezing
Tightness or pressure in the chest
Lack of energy or fatigue
Colds, flu, and pneumonia are frequent respiratory infections
Loss of appetite or weight loss
Exacerbations are episodes of sudden worsening of symptoms that require medical attention for people with COPD. An exacerbation may be triggered by a number of factors, including air pollution, weather changes, or stress. Exacerbations may cause symptoms including:
Coughing and mucus production increased
Mucus color or amount changes
Chills or fever
Pain or discomfort in the chest
Smoking is the main cause of COPD. Smoking damages the lungs by causing them to irritate and inflame their airways and alveoli by exposing them to harmful chemicals and toxins. The longer and more you smoke, the greater your risk of developing COPD. However, not all smokers develop COPD, and not all people with COPD are smokers. Other factors may contribute to COPD include:
Secondhand smoke is smoke from other people's cigarettes, cigars, or pipes
Mining, construction, manufacturing, or farming exposure to dusts, fumes, gases, or vapors
Burning wood, coal, or biomass fuels can cause indoor or outdoor air pollution
The presence of allergens or irritants, such as pets, mold, pollen, or chemicals
There are genetic factors, such as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), which affects the production of a protein that protects the lungs
You will be asked about your medical history, symptoms, smoking habits, and exposure to other risk factors in order for your doctor to diagnose COPD. The doctor will also perform a physical examination and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. The doctor may also order some tests to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity and impact of your COPD.
This is a test that measures how much air you can breathe in and out and how fast you can do it. It can also show if you have airflow obstructions in your lungs.
An X-ray of the chest can reveal if you have any abnormalities in your lungs or heart that may be related to COPD. This test uses radiation to produce an image of your chest.
An arterial blood gas test measures the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood, indicating if your lungs are able to deliver enough oxygen to your body and remove enough carbon dioxide from it.
The pulse oximetry test measures the oxygen level in your blood using a device that clips onto your finger. It can determine whether you have COPD due to low oxygen levels.
During a sputum culture, a sample of mucus from your lungs is analyzed to see if they contain any bacteria or viruses that could cause an infection or inflammation.
Tests that measure the level of alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood can determine if you have AAT deficiency (AATD), a genetic condition that increases your risk of COPD.
There is no cure for COPD, but treatment can help manage your symptoms, improve your quality of life, and prevent or delay complications. Depending on your type and severity of COPD, as well as your preferences and goals, you may have a variety of treatment options.
COPD medications can relieve your symptoms, reduce inflammation, prevent infections, and improve your lung function. Some of these medications include:
Medications such as albuterol, ipratropium, tiotropium, salmeterol, and formoterol relax and widen the airways in your lungs, making it easier to breathe.
Inhalers, pills, or capsules, corticosteroids help reduce inflammation and swelling in the airways. Examples include prednisone, budesonide, and fluticasone.
The antibiotics are drugs that fight bacteria that can cause infections in your lungs. Examples include amoxicillin, azithromycin, and doxycycline.
Medications known as mucolytics thin and loosen the mucus in your lungs, making it easier to cough up. Examples include guaifenesin and acetylcysteine.
As a pill or liquid, theophylline relaxes the muscles around the airways and improves breathing.
By using a mask or nasal prongs, you can receive extra oxygen through a treatment. If you have low levels of oxygen in your blood due to COPD, oxygen therapy may help improve your blood oxygen levels and reduce shortness of breath. You may need it only when exercising or sleeping, or continuously throughout the day if you need it.
In lung rehabilitation, you are provided with education, exercise, and counseling to cope with COPD and improve your mental and physical health. In addition to helping you breathe better, manage your symptoms, increase your stamina, and reduce stress, you may work with a team of health professionals, including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, dietitians, and psychologists.
A severe case of COPD that does not respond to other treatments or has life-threatening complications can be treated with surgery. Surgical options include removing part of the damaged lung (lung volume reduction surgery), inserting valves in the airways to block off damaged areas (bronchoscopic lung volume reduction), or replacing the diseased lung with a healthy one from a donor.
Smoking is the main cause of COPD, so quitting smoking can reduce your risk of developing or worsening it. The best way to prevent COPD is to avoid smoking or quit smoking if you already smoke. Moreover, you can take steps to protect your lungs from other factors that can aggravate or cause COPD, such as:
Avoiding secondhand smoke, which is smoke from other people's cigarettes, cigars, or pipes
Exposure to occupational dusts, fumes, gases, or vapors, such as those produced by mining, construction, manufacturing, or agriculture, should be avoided
Air pollution caused by burning wood, coal, or biomass fuels should be avoided indoors and outdoors
Avoiding allergens or irritants, such as pets, mold, pollen, or chemicals
Influenza (flu) and pneumococcal disease (pneumonia), which are common respiratory infections that can worsen COPD, can be prevented by vaccination
Checking in with your doctor regularly to monitor your lung function and detect any early signs of COPD
It is a group of lung diseases caused by smoking and can lead to serious complications such as heart failure, lung infection, and respiratory failure. COPD can be diagnosed by your doctor based on your history, examination, and tests. You can treat COPD with medications, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, or surgery. By avoiding smoking and avoiding other risk factors, you can prevent COPD.