COPD

Reviewed: April 05, 2013
By eHealthIQ
COPD

Overview and Facts

COPD is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and refers to a group of progressive lung diseases that make it increasingly difficult over time for a person to breath. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD, and millions more have it but don’t even know it. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are common conditions grouped together under COPD, though damage caused by asthmatic bronchitis also falls under COPD.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is typically found in middle-aged and older people. It isn’t something that is contagious or passed on – it is typically brought on by smoking, and it is usually brought on very slowly.

Signs and Symptoms

Many of the signs and symptoms of COPD start to occur before the flow of air in the lungs declines, and they worsen over time. Some COPD symptoms are similar to other diseases. If a person experiences COPD symptoms, it does not automatically mean a person has COPD – only a doctor can determine that. The severity of symptoms depends on the severity of lung damage, and some symptoms of COPD require a doctor’s care or even emergency care. The main symptoms of COPD are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Ongoing cough
  • Cough that produces a lot of mucus
  • Frequent colds or flu
  • Swelling in feet or legs
  • Bluish color on lips
  • Chest tightness

These COPD symptoms typically begin mildly and worsen over time as lung damage gets worse. People with COPD also are susceptible to experiencing episodes called exacerbations, a time period in which COPD symptoms suddenly get much worse. This flare up of symptoms can be dangerous and require medical care. Exacerbations are usually caused by infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

Causes and Diagnosis

In the vast majority of COPD cases, long-term cigarette smoking causes the lung damage that leads to having COPD. In addition to smoking, other irritants such as secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes, dust and other tobacco smoke can cause COPD. Most people with COPD often have one or both of the following lung conditions, both of which can be caused by smoking:

  • Emphysema. A lung disease that causes inflammation within the walls of the alveoli, which eventually causes airways to collapse when you exhale.
  • Chronic bronchitis. Characterized by an ongoing cough, this disease causes narrowing of the bronchial tubes.

Rarely, a genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency may cause COPD.

A doctor will make a COPD diagnosis based on your possible COPD symptoms, as well as your medical and family histories. A doctor will most certainly want to know any history of smoking cigarettes or any contact with other lung irritants. Plus, a doctor will look for information about your cough, the amount of mucus that comes up and how long you have had it.

A physical examination with a stethoscope to listen for wheezing may also be done. The main test for COPD is a lung function test called a spirometry. A spirometry is a test in which a patient is asked to take a deep breath and then blow as hard as possible into a tube connected to a small machine, which measures how much air you breathe out and how fast you breathe air out.

Tests and Treatment Options

No cure for COPD exists yet, and doctors aren’t able to reverse damage to lungs. But through treatments and lifestyle changes, a person can feel better and slow the progress of COPD.

Quitting smoking is the most important step in COPD treatment. However, there are other types of treatment for COPD that have the goal of slowing the progress of the disease, relieving symptoms, preventing and treating complications and improving overall health. Some of these treatments include:

  • Bronchodilators: Medication that is usually taken via an inhaler. It helps relax the muscles around airways, which makes breathing easier.
  • Flu shots: infuenza can cause complications for people with COPD, so avoiding the flu by getting a flu shot is best to reduce risk
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation: A medically-supervised program that includes a wide variety of things to improve health. These things range from exercise to psychological counseling
  • Oxygen therapy: For severe cases of COPD, you may be given oxygen through a mask to help you breathe better.

Helpful Tips and Home Remedies

Since there is no cure for COPD, it is important to try and live a healthy lifestyle to slow the progress of the disease and make life more enjoyable. Here are some tips to manage symptoms:

  • Avoid lung irritants: TO start, don’t smoke. If you do, get help to quit immediately. And if you don’t smoke, you should avoid secondhand smoke and other irritants such as dust, air pollution and chemical fumes.
  • Prepare for emergencies: Get to know your symptoms so you know when they are severe and its time to seek emergency care. Keep an eye out for infections and fevers, which should be taken seriously for COPD patients
  • Continue medical care: Keep up on your medications, get proper vaccinations and learn about other diseases that COPD patients are at a higher risk for such as heart disease, lung cancer and pneumonia.

References

  • http://www.webmd.com/lung/copd/tc/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd-overview
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/copd/DS00916Tembolok – Mirip
  • http://www.medicinenet.com/chronic_obstructive_pulmonary_disease_copd/article.htm
  • http://copd.about.com
  • http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease

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