The term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) describes a number of conditions (diseases) of the lungs that make it difficult to empty the air from the lungs. This difficulty may cause the feeling of shortness of breath (also called dyspnea) or the feeling of being fatigued. The term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be used to describe a person with chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or a combination of both; it is a condition that can be confused with chronic asthma although completely different.
COPD makes breathing difficult and is due to the sum of the insults that occur in the lungs of a patient over the years, mainly because of cigarette smoking. It tends to be progressive, that is to worsen over time and those affected may present an important chronic inflammatory airway response in response to an infectious disease or exposure to particles, and irritant fumes (COPD exacerbations); is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide and is a largely preventable and treatable disease but from which there is no cure.
When you are suffering from COPD, the air enters and, especially, come out with difficulty from the airways, which are restricted because the walls can be thickened and oedematous (swollen), for the small contraction of the muscle cells that surround or for accumulation of mucous secretions.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be caused by many factors, although the most common cause is cigarette smoking. Inhaling irritating particles, such as smoke or air pollutants can lead mucous glands, which are found in the bronchial tubes (bronchi) to produce more mucus than normal and can cause thickening and swelling (inflammation) of the walls of the bronchi. This increase in production of mucus causes coughing and often leads to expel mucus (or phlegm). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may occur if small amounts of irritants are inhaled over a long period of time or if you inhale large amounts of irritants in a short time. Even the environmental and genetic factors can cause the disease.
The two main symptoms of COPD are cough and dyspnea, sometimes accompanied by wheezing. Often the cough is chronic, more intense in the morning, and characterized by the production of mucus. Dyspnea appears gradually over several years and in severe cases can get to limit normal daily activities. Typically, these people are subject to chronic respiratory infections, occasionally going into relapse accompanied by an aggravated symptoms. With the progression of the disease, these episodes tend to become more and more frequent.
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How does my doctor diagnose me with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?
The doctor will diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease based on reported symptoms and examination results. The most important test to diagnose it is spirometry useful to measure the amount of air entering the lungs.
Other tests for a comprehensive assessment
- Blood tests for leukocyte count and the research of infectious states;
- Sputum culture tests, to determine the presence of bacteria in the mucus and exclude other infections;
- Chest X-ray (Chest Rx), to assess the presence of signs of wider infection (pneumonia);
- TAC, in cases where it is necessary to detect any abnormalities of the lungs and airways in general;
- Blood gas analysis, which allows to measure the amount of oxygen transferred to the lungs, the pH of the blood and the elimination of carbon dioxide;
Managing the disease
In the case of smoking, the first and most important treatment is to stop smoking. In addition to helping you quit smoking, your doctor may prescribe medications that promote the expansion of the breathing tubes (bronchodilators), reduce the swelling of the breathing tubes (inflammatory) or cure the infection (antibiotics). It has been proven that the drugs help stabilize the airway and reduce the swelling. To control the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), these drugs must be taken daily, probably for the rest of his life.
In some countries, you can resort to surgery (lung volume reduction) to remove certain areas (but not all) of the lungs that have widespread emphysema. If suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the residual function of the lungs, you can learn to use more effectively. It should be better informed about their conditions. It may therefore be useful to participate in group meetings or enroll in a pulmonary rehabilitation program that helps patients control their breath. Although the symptoms fade after you stop smoking, they will never disappear completely. The improvement depends on the existing damage in the lungs.