What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a slowly progressive disease that causes symptoms such as breathlessness and cough.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of diseases with the chief symptom of breathlessness and cough. COPD is a slowly progressive disease and affects approximately 32 million Americans.
COPD leads to airflow obstruction due to the following reasons:
- Tiny air sacs in the lungs that are responsible for oxygen transfer to the blood lose their capacity to stretch and shrink back.
- The walls between many of the air sacs are damaged.
- The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed.
- Oversecretion of the mucus blocks the airflow.
The diseases in the COPD spectrum are as follows:
What are the signs and symptoms of COPD?
In the initial stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), there may be no symptoms. Later, the following non-specific symptoms are seen:
- Smoker’s cough (nagging cough)
- Chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing (whistling sound while breathing)
When the disease progresses, the symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Swelling in the feet and ankles
- Gasping for breath
- Feeling of missed beat or palpitations
- Respiratory failure
- Blue or gray lips and/or fingernails
Who is at a risk of getting COPD?
Patients with the following conditions are at a risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD):
- Continuous exposure to air pollution
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
- Infectious diseases that destroy the lung tissue
- Chronic asthma
- Immune deficiency syndromes
- Vasculitis syndrome (inflammation in the blood vessels)
- Connective tissue disorders (diseases that affect the parts of the body that connect the structures of the body)
- Genetic problems such as Salla disease
Which tests do physicians use to diagnose COPD?
Physicians use the following methods and tests to diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD):
- Taking a through history
- History of tobacco smoking, occupational exposure to dust and chemicals
- Information about exposure to air pollutants or history of any lung disease
- Chest X-rays
- Spirometry (lung function tests)
- Computed tomography (CT) of the lungs
- Measurement of the saturation level of oxygen in the blood with the help of arterial blood gas or a pulse oximeter
How is COPD treated?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) management involves various therapies, which include:
- Cessation of cigarette smoking
- Taking vitamin and nutritional supplements
- Exercise training and breathing exercises
- Nutritional counseling therapy
- Energy-conserving therapies
- Psychological counseling
Medications to treat COPD include the following:
- Bronchodilators relax muscles around the airways
- Oxygen therapy
- Steroids to reduce swelling in the airway
- Antibiotics to treat a respiratory infection
- Drugs that thin the mucous plug
Patients with severe COPD may require a surgery to remove the diseased portion of the lung or even lung transplantation.
What is the life expectancy of someone with COPD?
Depending on the disease severity, the five-year life expectancy for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ranges from 40%-70%. That means 40-70 out of 100 people will be alive after five years of diagnosis of COPD.
COPD is a chronic, gradually progressing lung disease that is not completely curable. Timely medical treatments can slow the progression of this disease.