Understanding COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK. An estimated three million people have COPD in the country, most of whom don’t even know they have the disease. Only about 900,000 people in the country have been diagnosed with the disease, which you may also hear called chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD).

About COPD

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is an umbrella term used to describe a collection of lung diseases that include chronic emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema is a condition that results from damage to the smaller air sacs of the lungs called alveoli, while bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways of the lungs (bronchi). People with COPD suffer long-term breathing difficulties among other health problems.

Causes of COPD

COPD is mainly caused by smoking, although in rare cases the disease can be caused by dust, fumes, air pollution and genetic disorders. The more (and the longer) you smoke, the more the chances of developing COPD. Smoking irritates and inflames the lungs, leading to scarring of delicate walls of the air sacs in the lungs.

Over time, the inflammations and scarring from smoking causes the walls of airways to thicken, more mucus is produced and ultimately there is a permanent narrowing of the airways. Narrowing of the airways makes lungs lose their normal elasticity and leads to airflow obstruction. Typical symptoms of COPD then develop.

Symptoms of COPD

Typical symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease include a persistent cough with phlegm, breathlessness when active and frequent chest discomforts and infections.

Treatment of COPD

If COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is in the initial stage and symptoms are mild, the most effective treatment is to stop smoking immediately. Not smoking is also the best preventive measure for COPD.

If symptoms of the disease become troublesome, a variety of treatments are available to ease effects and prevent flare-ups. Bronchodilator tablets and medications delivered using inhalers are often used to manage the disease.

In acute cases of COPD, surgery may be advised to remove the section of lung that is completely damaged.

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