COPD – Symptoms, Stages & Treatment

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is related to one of the three medical conditions :

Chronic Asthma
Chronic Bronchitis

In these conditions, air flow through the airways is chronically obstructed. In other words, air is unable to properly enter your lungs. Thus, you may face trouble in breathing and experience excess cough accompanied with mucus. Usually, this condition is permanent and it may even progress over time.

It is important to understand that normal asthma blocks air out of your lungs. But, this obstruction of air is reversible until asthma turns chronic. Air flow to your lungs is normal between attacks of asthma. Hence, these patients don’t have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

However, if asthma is left untreated, you may develop chronic inflammation associated with this condition. Soon, airways to your lungs may be permanently obstructed. Since such patients don’t have normal airflow between asthma attacks, they are considered to have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Causes of COPD

Air Pollution
Occupational Pollutants
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency

Symptoms of COPD

Symptoms of COPD are related to conditions which cause this ailment. Let us tell you about some common symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Smoking – On an average, if you have been smoking 20 or more cigarettes per day for the last twenty years, you may develop chronic cough, frequent respiratory infections and shortness of breath. In fact, smoking account for more than 90% cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Emphysema – In patients suffering from emphysema, shortness of breath is a very common symptom. Shortness of breath is more noticeable during strenuous physical activity. However, if emphysema is progressing, you may even experience short of breath at rest.

Bronchiectasis and Chronic Bronchitis – If you are suffering from these conditions, sputum production and chronic cough are major symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Usually, sputum is thick and clear.

You may also experience frequent chest infections. These may cause coughing, fever, shortness of breath, production of discolored sputum and wheezing. Wheezing is a noise produced by your lungs during exhalation. It is caused when your airways are obstructed or lined with mucus. These infections occur frequently as the condition progresses.

Advanced Symptoms – In advanced Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, patients may develop a condition called cyanosis. In this condition, nail beds and lips tend to turn blue. This happens due to lack of oxygen in your blood.

Your body may be unable to remove carbon dioxide from your blood. Thus, you may experience headaches in the morning.

Some patients experience significant weight loss. The main reason is that you will need additional energy to breathe properly. Reduced intake of food may be another possibility.

If you are suffering from advanced Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, small blood vessels in your lungs may be destroyed. This blocks blood flow to your lungs. Therefore, your heart needs to increase force to pump blood properly to your lungs. This elevated pressure on your heart is called hypertension. If your heart is unable to handle the pressure, it may result in Cor Pulmonale or right heart failure. It may also lead to some swelling in ankles and feet.

In an advanced stage, you may also suffer from hemoptysis. In this condition, you cough blood. This condition is caused by damaged to the inner lining of airways and blood vessels. Occasionally, this condition could be the onset of lung cancer.

Diagnosis of COPD

Commonly, COPD is diagnosed on the basis of your medical history. A proper diagnosis of your medical history provides a lot of information about different symptoms and signs of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease. Some other tests may also be performed for a proper diagnosis. These include an X-ray of the chest, computerized tomography or CAT scan of the chest, various tests for lung infection and measurement of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood.

Treatment Options for COPD

Some popular treatment options include :

Quitting Smoking
Taking certain medications to decrease airway inflammation and dilate airways
Vaccination against pneumonia and flu influenza
Oxygen supplementation
Pulmonary rehabilitation

COPD is a serious and irreversible condition. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly. With the first signs of this ailment, you should consult your doctor and discuss treatment options to improve quality of life.

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