What is COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)?

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a group of progressive lung diseases. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most common of these diseases. Both of these conditions are common in people with COPD.

Impact of Emphysema

Emphysema is a lung disease in which the alveoli at the end of the lungs’ tiniest air passageways (bronchioles) are destroyed as a result of prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke and other irritating gases and particulate matter. Emphysema is a chronic lung disease that affects the lungs’ alveoli.

Despite the fact that COPD is a progressive disease that worsens with time, COPD is curable if caught early. Most patients with COPD can obtain good symptom control and a high quality of life, as well as a reduced chance of developing other related illnesses, provided they receive effective treatment.

Emphysema gradually destroys the air sacs in your lungs, interfering with outward airflow. Bronchitis is characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, allowing mucus to accumulate. COPD affects an estimated 30 million people in the United States. Half of those who have it are completely unaware of it. COPD, if left untreated, can hasten disease progression, cause heart problems, and worsen respiratory infections.

Inflammatory lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which causes restricted airflow from the lungs, are considered to be the most serious. Breathing difficulties, coughing, mucus (sputum) production, and wheezing are all common symptoms. Long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, the majority of which comes from cigarette smoke, is the most common cause. Those who suffer from COPD are at a greater risk of getting heart disease, lung cancer, and a range of other health problems.

COPD is caused by a number of different illnesses, the most prevalent of which are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These two disorders are typically associated with COPD and can manifest themselves in varying degrees of severity among those suffering from the disease.

Chronical bronchitis (also known as chronic lung inflammation) is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which are responsible for transporting air into and out of the lung’s air sacs (alveoli). It is characterized by frequent coughing and the production of mucus (sputum).

The majority of people with COPD are at least 40 years old and have a history of smoking. The longer and more tobacco products you smoke, the more likely you are to develop COPD. COPD can be caused by cigarette smoke, cigar smoke, pipe smoke, and secondhand smoke, in addition to cigarette smoke. If you have asthma and smoke, your chances of developing COPD are even higher.

What are the signs and symptoms of COPD?

COPD makes it difficult to breathe. At first, symptoms may be mild, such as intermittent coughing and shortness of breath. As the disease progresses, the symptoms can become more consistent, making it difficult to breathe.

You may experience wheezing and chest tightness, as well as excessive sputum production. Some people with COPD experience acute exacerbations, which are severe symptom flare-ups.

Early signs and symptoms

COPD symptoms can be quite mild at first. They could be mistaken for a cold.

Early signs and symptoms include:

  • Occasional shortness of breath, especially after exercise 
  • Mild but recurring cough
  • The necessity to frequently clear your throat, particularly first thing in the morning.

You may begin to make minor adjustments, such as avoiding stairs and skipping physical activities.

Worsening symptoms of COPD

Symptoms can worsen over time and become more difficult to ignore. You may experience the following symptoms as your lungs deteriorate:

  • Shortness of breath, even after mild exercise such as walking up a flight of stairs, 
  • Wheezing, which is a type of higher-pitched noisy breathing, particularly during exhalations
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Coughing that lasts for a long time, with or without mucus
  • Need to clear mucus from your lungs on a daily basis suffer from colds, flu, or other respiratory infections
  • Insufficient energy

Symptoms of COPD in its later stages may also include:

  • Fatigue 
  • Swollen feet, ankles, or legs 
  • Weight loss

If you currently smoke or are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, your symptoms are likely to be much worse.

Women and COPD

The increasingly female face of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) prevalence among women has equalled that of men since 2008, due in part to increased tobacco use among women worldwide and exposure to biomass fuels. This finding is supported by a number of characteristics. There is evidence of susceptibility to smoking and other airborne contaminants, along with epidemiological and phenotypic manifestations. COPD has thus become the leading cause of death in women in the USA. The clinical presentation is characterised by increasingly pronounced dyspnoea with a marked tendency towards anxiety and depression, undernutrition, nonsmall cell lung cancer (especially adenocarcinoma) and osteoporosis. Quality of life is also more significantly impacted. The theories advanced to explain these differences involve the role played by oestrogens, impaired gas exchange in the lungs and smoking habits. While these differences require appropriate therapeutic responses (smoking cessation, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy), barriers to the treatment of women with COPD include greater under-diagnosis than in men, fewer spirometry tests and medical consultations. Faced with this serious public health problem, we need to update and adapt our knowledge to the epidemiological changes.

Emergency Medical Treatments of COPD

Immediate medical care is needed if:

  • you have bluish or gray fingernails or lips, as this indicates low oxygen levels in your blood
  • you have trouble catching your breath or can’t talk
  • you feel confused, muddled, or faint your heart is racing

If you or your elderly loved one is struggling with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , contact a COPD specialist at Oasis Hospice and Palliative Care at (708) 564-4838 and get the pain relief you deserve.