What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease, which means that the patient persistently has irritated and constricted airways with an increased risk of infections.
This results in a higher effort for the COPD patients to breath (dyspnoea). Previously, COPD has been known as the smoker’s respiratory syndrome, because smoking is the primary cause of the development of COPD. People, who restrain from smoking, almost never develop COPD.
What are the symptoms of COPD?
The symptoms that COPD patients experience are caused by changes in the lung tissue and in the small and large airways. The primary changes in the tissues are constrictions of the large airways and the obstruction of the small airways because of inflammatory reactions. The constriction of the airways leads to a collapse, which in the end destroys them.
- Breathing difficulties (dyspnoea)
- Cough with sputum
- Frequent lung infections
- Low functional level
Patients with mild forms of COPD only experience the symptoms when they are infected or at hard physical workload. Patients with an advanced form of COPD, experience severe difficulties breathing even at low physical workload. These patients are often affected by heart diseases and depression too.
Risk factors and causes
The biggest risk factor for the development of COPD is smoking, but there are other risk factors, such as occasionally exposure of dust, chemical gases, air pollution, passive smoking, genetic factors, and asthma.
COPD is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world and it affects about 5% of the global population. Many of these patients are heavily affected and limited in their daily life.
There is no treatment for COPD so far but the disease is often linked to an unhealthy lifestyle. If the patient is smoking, it is recommended to quit smoking to improve the prognosis. Besides from the smoking cessation, it is possible to treat COPD with medicals, exercise, and treatment of adjacent diseases to prevent a progression of COPD.
The central aim of the treatment is the maintenance of the lung function and the prevention of infections. The pharmacological treatment of COPD consists of medicine which is inhaled, when necessary. Additional treatment can be added if the patient gets an infection or when COPD progresses. Worst case scenario, it can be necessary to support the breathing through life support.
Besides from the pharmacological treatment of COPD, the most important intervention is to quit smoking. When aging, the functions of the lungs naturally, gradually decrease, but it has been shown that loss of lung function progresses when patients smoke. When quitting smoking, the lung function will decrease with the same speed as seen at patients who don’t smoke. The part of the lungs, which has been destroyed by the disease, can’t be regained.