Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstruction of airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, mucus (sputum) production and shortness of breath. It typically arises due to prolonged contact with bothersome gases or fine particles, frequently emanating from the inhalation of tobacco smoke. Individuals with COPD face an elevated risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, and various other health conditions.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two common conditions that contribute to COPD. These two conditions usually occur together and can vary in severity among people with COPD.

Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. It is characterized by daily coughing and mucus (sputum) production.

Chronic disease

Emphysema is a condition in which the alveoli at the end of the lungs’ smallest airways (bronchioles) are destroyed as a result of harmful exposure to cigarette smoke and other irritant gases and particulate matter.

While COPD is a progressive condition that deteriorates over time, it is treatable. With proper management, most people with COPD can achieve good symptom control and quality of life, as well as reduce the risk of other related conditions.


COPD symptoms often don’t appear until there is significant lung damage, and they usually get worse over time, especially if smoking continues.

Signs and symptoms of COPD may include:

  • Catching your breath can be a challenge, especially when you’re on the move or engaging in physical activities.
  • Scent
  • Chest tension
  • A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow, or green
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy
  • Unintentional weight loss (later stage)
  • Swelling of ankles, feet or legs

People with COPD may also experience episodes called exacerbations, during which their symptoms become worse than the normal daily variation and last for at least a few days.

When to see a doctor?

Talk to your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve with treatment or get worse, or if you notice signs of infection, such as fever or changes in sputum.

Get medical help right away if you can’t catch your breath, if you feel your lips or nail beds (cyanosis) or fast heart beat, or if you feel foggy and have trouble concentrating.


Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of COPD in developed countries. In the developing world, COPD often occurs in people exposed to smoke from burning fuel for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated homes.

Only some chronic smokers develop clinically evident COPD, although many smokers with a long smoking history may have decreased lung function. Some smokers develop less common lung conditions. They may be misdiagnosed as having COPD until a more thorough evaluation is done.

How are your lungs affected?

Air travels through two large tubes (bronchi) down your windpipe (trachea) and into your lungsWithin your lungs, these tubes branch out extensively, much like the branches of a tree, eventually dividing into smaller tubes (bronchioles) that culminate in clusters of tiny air sacs (alveoli).

Air sacs have very thin walls containing tiny blood vessels (capillaries). The oxygen in the air you breathe enters these blood vessels and enters your bloodstream. At the same time, carbon dioxide – a gas that is a waste product of metabolism – is exhaled.

Your lungs count on the natural flexibility of the bronchial tubes and air sacs to help push air out of your system. COPD causes them to lose elasticity and become overstretched, causing some air to be trapped in your lungs when you exhale.

Leads to a blockage in the air passages.

Causes of airway obstruction include:

  • Emphysema. This lung disease damages the delicate walls and elastic fibers of the alveoli. When you exhale, the small airways collapse, disrupting airflow from your lungs.
  • Chronic bronchitis. In this condition, your bronchial tubes become inflamed and narrow, and your lungs produce more mucus, which can further block the narrow tubes. A chronic cough may develop as an attempt to clear your airways.

Cigarette smoke and other irritants

In most people with COPD, long-term cigarette smoking causes lung damage that leads to COPD. But other factors play a role in the development of COPD, such as genetic susceptibility to the disease, as not all smokers develop COPD.

Other irritants, including cigar smoke, secondhand smoke, pipe smoke, air pollution, and exposure to dust, smoke, or fumes at work, can cause COPD.

Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency

In about 1% of people with COPD, the disease is caused by a genetic disorder that causes low levels of a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAt). AAt is made in the liver and released into the bloodstream to help protect the lungs. A deficiency of alpha-1-antitrypsin can lead to liver disease, lung disease, or tuberculosis


COPD can cause many complications, including:

  • Respiratory infections. People with COPD are more likely to get colds, flu, and pneumonia. Any respiratory infection can make breathing more difficult and further damage lung tissue.
  • Heart problems. The exact reasons aren’t entirely clear, but COPD could heighten the chances of heart issues, like a heart attack.
  • Lung cancer. Individuals dealing with COPD face an increased likelihood of developing lung cancer.
  • High blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries. COPD can cause high blood pressure in the arteries that bring blood to your lungs (pulmonary hypertension).
  • Depression. Struggling to breathe can put a damper on the activities that bring you joy. And coping with serious illness can contribute to the development of depression.


Unlike some diseases, COPD usually has a clear cause and a clear path to prevention and ways to slow the progression of the disease. The majority of cases are linked to smoking, so the key to avoiding COPD is either never picking up the habit or making the decision to quit smoking today.

If you’ve been a long-time smoker, these simple statements may not seem so simple, especially if you’ve tried to quit — once, twice, or many times before. But keep trying to exit. It is important to find a tobacco cessation program that can help you quit for good. This is your best chance to minimize damage to your lungs.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Being exposed to chemical fumes and dust at work can also increase the risk of COPD. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s a good idea to have a chat with your supervisor about the best ways to keep yourself protected, like using respiratory protective gear.

Here are some steps you can take to help prevent complications associated with COPD:

  • Quit smoking to help reduce the risk of heart disease and lung cancer.
  • Get an annual flu shot and regular vaccinations against pneumococcal pneumonia to reduce your risk or prevent certain infections.
  • Talk to your doctor if you feel sad or helpless or think you may be suffering from depression.

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