What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
COPD is a type of obstructive lung disease characterised by chronically poor airflow, and it typically worsens over time. It is the umbrella term for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airway disease.
The main symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, and sputum production. Tobacco smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Worldwide, COPD affects 329 million people or nearly 5% of the population. In 2011, it ranked as the fourth-leading cause of death, killing over 3 million people. The number of deaths is projected to increase due to higher smoking rates and an ageing population in many countries.
The main cause of COPD is smoking because it inflames the lungs. The likelihood of getting COPD increases the more you smoke and the longer you have been smoking. Over time, the lungs become increasingly inflamed and scarred, the walls of the airways thicken and damage is caused to the air sacs in the lungs, which lose their elasticity.
COPD may also be caused by fumes, dust, air pollution and genetic diseases, but this is far less common than nicotine.
What are the symptoms?
Shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and a persistent cough. These symptoms will typically worsen over time. If COPD is severe, it is also possible to experience weight loss, swelling of the ankles and loss of appetite.
How can it be treated?
Although COPD is a chronic illness, there are a number of treatment options that can help to improve the symptoms.
- Smokers should try to give up smoking as this will reduce the chance of the condition getting worse
- Managing weight and eating healthily will help to prevent infections and keep lungs healthy
- Regular exercise and a good night’s sleep will help to maintain energy levels
- If oxygen levels become too low, this is when oxygen treatment may be necessary
- With a greater understanding of your breathing disorder or breathing problems, along with an accurate medical diagnosis and effective treatment, you can regain control of your life. Controlling your disorder on a day-to-day basis is crucial to living an active, productive life