COPD(chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. with 12 million people being diagnosed with the disease annually. Caused by long term irritant exposure it develops slowly where the air sacs in the lungs lose their shape and become floppy and damaged. It gets worse over time with fewer larger airsacs instead of healthy tiny ones which causes a reduction in gas exchange. This is usually coupled with either bronchitis or emphysema or both.
Bronchitis becomes chronic when airways are inflamed and constantly irrritated causing the lining to thicken. Mucus builds up in the airways which makes it hard to breathe.
Emphysema is the damage to the air sacs and airways in the lungs. It can mean the collapse of the smaller breathing tubes in the lungs.
Cigarette smoke is usually the cause for these conditions but, if the smoke is inhaled, pipe and cigar or any type of tobacco smoke can do the same damage. Fumes from cleaners, air pollution and secondhand smoke can also be causes of COPD.
People with this disease are usually about fourty years of age. However, there is uncommon occurances as well that may begin earlier. Those with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency which affects the lungs and liver.
Often there are symptoms that begin to occur years before air flow in the lungs begin to decline. A squeaky or whistling when you breathe or the buildup of mucus with an ongoing cough can be symptoms of COPD.
Those with the disease may have flare-ups which means their symptoms get worse. Oral steroids may be used or they may need to be hospitalized depending on the seriousness of the onset. The best thing that the person with COPD can do is stop smoking. If they do not smoke stay away from smoke and irritants.
Furthermore, homes with heavy rugs can make brething more difficult for the COPD patient. Also dusty air ducts, use of cleaners that give off fumes, and people smoking in the area can cause irritation to already sensitive air passages. Making a change in these areas can help the patient see a definite change in breathing.
This is a progressive disease and will be getting worse over time. It is important to be diagnosed as soon as possible and make changes to their way of living. Stopping smoking might be something worth looking at as one of several changes that can be made. These are things you can discuss with your healthcare provider.
People in the later stages of the disease and who continue to smoke have a shorter life expectancy. In these later stages about 6 years of a patient’s life is lost. This compared to about 1.5 years in those who have not smoked. Life does improve for those who quit smoking.
COPD is a debilitating disease that can shorten a person’s life expectancy due to cell damage. Those with COPD are five times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who don’t smoke. The best remedy is to not begin smoking.