COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD is a long-term lung and airways disease that is not curable. It is recommended to consult a healthcare professional if you suspect you may suffer from COPD.
COPD is a chronic disease as it is characterised by:
- complex causality
- multiple risk factors
- long latency periods
- a prolonged course of illness
- functional impairment or disability.
COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Many people with COPD have both bronchitis and emphysema.
COPD slowly damages airways, the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. COPD makes airways swollen and partly blocked by mucus, a slimy substance. It creates damages in the tiny air sacs at the tips of the airways. This makes it hard to move air in and out of the lungs.
COPD is often misdiagnosed and confused with asthma.
COPD is mainly caused by smoking. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust, also may contribute to COPD.
COPD cannot be cured but it can be treated by: quitting smoking and, adopting a healthier life style and exercise, and with medicines, vaccines, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, and rarely surgery.
- Persistent cough, especially in the morning
- Production of a large amount of mucus (or phlegm)
These symptoms are common to several diseases, experimenting them does not necessarily mean that one suffers from COPD. For a diagnosis, people are invited to check with their doctor.
Some rare forms of COPD are due to a genetic condition:
Some people are Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficient. AAT is a protein that helps protect lungs against damage from toxins. When the body releases white blood cells to fight off infection or disease, the liver releases AAT to protect against damaging enzymes. For someone who has an AAT deficiency, the body does not release any or enough AAT, so the person can develop lung damage (emphysema) and suffer from same symptoms usually at much younger age than smokers or people exposed to dust. More information on AAT deficient COPD.
Management of the disease:
If you smoke you must stop smoking. This may require medication and counselling to help you. Everyone should have immunisation against pneumonia and annual immunisation against influenza. Be as physically active as you can: gardening, housework, moderately fast walking or other exercise all counts.
The goals of COPD treatment include:
- Relieving symptoms
- Slowing the progress of the disease
- Improving exercise tolerance (ability to stay active)
- Preventing and treating complications
- Improving overall health
Medicine treatment options include:
- bronchodilators that treat shortness of breath
- combination medicines and corticosteroid pills that prevent and treat COPD flare-ups
- antibiotics that treat some infections which cause flare-ups
- flu and pneumonia vaccines to prevent some infections that cause flare-ups
- supplemental oxygen that boosts oxygen level
Part of the treatment is physical rehabilitation: it may include exercises, nutritional counselling, education on your condition and how to manage it, energy conserving techniques, breathing strategies, psychological counselling and/or group support.