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COPD is an acronym for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It refers to a group of diseases, rather than a single disease, that makes breathing difficult and oxygen saturation nearly impossible due to obstruction. In most cases, COPD refers to chronic bronchitis with emphysema, although it can refer to chronic bronchitis suffered by asthmatics, and the damage caused by the recurrence of asthmatic bronchitis. In all forms of COPD, there is some sort of damage related obstruction in the air sacs or airways of the lungs, which traps air inside the lungs and prevents exhaling. When the body can not exhale, breathing normally becomes next to impossible.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and a high ranking cause of death world wide. Almost all cases of COPD is brought about by cigarette smoke. Patients who quit smoking before the damage to their lungs occur can be spared COPD, however patients who quit after the damage to the lungs occurs can not reverse the damage or the disease.


The symptoms of COPD are often nonexistent in the early stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, patients will begin to experience an array of symptoms, and finally develop life affecting symptoms that can no longer be ignored. Once symptoms begin, the damage to the lungs is extensive. Symptoms may include wheezing, persistent cough, an increase in mucous production, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and frequent or chronic respiratory infections.

When the body breathes in oxygen, the air travels through the trachea and into a series of perpetually smaller tubes that branch off into smaller air sacs. The body assists the breathing process by using diaphragm muscles to help bring air in. Air leaves the body as a waste material via the elastic nature of the bronchial tubes and air sacs, rather than muscles surrounding the lungs. If there is significant damage to the airway and the sacs, they lose their elastic nature and air does not expel from the lungs naturally, and thus require help from the surrounding muscles. This process becomes exhausting for patients who have to think about breathing out for each breath.


COPD is caused by the damage of the lung’s airways and air sacs, often in the form pf emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Bronchial asthma can also cause the symptoms of COPD. Cigarette smoke and other pollutants and irritants are usually to blame for the diseases and any combination they make strike. Most COPD patients have two diseases at the same time. Asthmatics who smoke are of course more prone to forming emphysema and chronic bronchial asthma. In very rare cases, COPD might be caused from a rare genetic disorder known as alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, which results in the missing protein alpha 1 antitrypsin.
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Image: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


Risk factors for developing COPD include environmental hazards, such as cigarette smoke or working in environments that lung damage is likely to occur, age (most cases of COPD are diagnosed after the age of 40, as this is a disease that progresses slowly) and genetics. Just like some people are able to smoke from the time they are 14 until they are 85 with no real ill effects, other people find that after ten years of smoking they are facing serious consequences, genetics plays a huge role in who is affected and who is spared.


Tests can be run for patients experiencing COPD symptoms, combined with a health history pointing to the likelihood, for a clear diagnosis. COPD can often be diagnosed before symptoms begin with the use of a pulmonary function test. A chest x-ray, an arterial blood gas analysis, a sputum examination, and a CT scan can usually reveal enough information to determine the condition of the lungs.


Complications can result from COPD, including high blood pressure, chronic or frequent respiratory infections, heart problems, lung cancer, and depression. Patients experiencing COPD should follow the physicians outline for treatment as closely as possible to decrease the risk of further illness.


There is no cure for COPD. Treatment options focus in making the patient more comfortable and dispelling any further damage to the lungs. The most important key factor to surviving COPD is smoking cessation. Medications that help open the airways, pain medication, and medications to help fight off infections are all part of the treatment plan. However, if the patient continues to smoke, there is little chance that the physicians will be able to do anything to prolong life or enhance the quality of life.
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Medication commonly used for these disease:

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