COPD is treatable. With proper management, most people with COPD can achieve good symptom control and quality of life, as well as reduced risk of other associated conditions. COPD symptoms often don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time, particularly if smoking exposure continues.
For chronic bronchitis, the main symptom is a daily cough and mucus sputum production at least three months a year for two consecutive years. Other signs and symptoms of COPD may include:.
Lung Regeneration Therapy for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called exacerbations, during which their symptoms become worse than usual day-to-day variation and persist for at least several days. The main cause of COPD in developed countries is tobacco smoking. In the developing world, COPD often occurs in people exposed to fumes from burning fuel for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated homes.
Only about 20 to 30 percent of chronic smokers may develop clinically apparent COPD , although many smokers with long smoking histories may develop reduced lung function. Some smokers develop less common lung conditions. They may be misdiagnosed as having COPD until a more thorough evaluation is performed. Air travels down your windpipe trachea and into your lungs through two large tubes bronchi. Inside your lungs, these tubes divide many times — like the branches of a tree — into many smaller tubes bronchioles that end in clusters of tiny air sacs alveoli.
The air sacs have very thin walls full of tiny blood vessels capillaries. The oxygen in the air you inhale passes into these blood vessels and enters your bloodstream. At the same time, carbon dioxide — a gas that is a waste product of metabolism — is exhaled. Your lungs rely on the natural elasticity of the bronchial tubes and air sacs to force air out of your body.
COPD causes them to lose their elasticity and overexpand, which leaves some air trapped in your lungs when you exhale. Emphysema damages the inner walls of the lungs' air sacs alveoli , causing them to eventually rupture. This creates one larger air space instead of many small ones and reduces the surface area available for gas exchange. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs.
People who have bronchitis often cough up thickened mucus, which can be discolored. In the vast majority of cases, the lung damage that leads to COPD is caused by long-term cigarette smoking.
12 Silent Signs Your Lungs Could Be in Trouble
But there are likely other factors at play in the development of COPD , such as a genetic susceptibility to the disease, because only about 20 to 30 percent of smokers may develop COPD. Other irritants can cause COPD , including cigar smoke, secondhand smoke, pipe smoke, air pollution and workplace exposure to dust, smoke or fumes. In about 1 percent of people with COPD , the disease results from a genetic disorder that causes low levels of a protein called alphaantitrypsin.
Alphaantitrypsin AAt is made in the liver and secreted into the bloodstream to help protect the lungs.
Alphaantitrypsin deficiency can affect the liver as well as the lungs. Damage to the lung can occur in infants and children, not only adults with long smoking histories. In addition, some people can be treated by replacing the missing AAt protein, which may prevent further damage to the lungs.
COPD can cause many complications, including:. Unlike some diseases, COPD has a clear cause and a clear path of prevention. The majority of cases are directly related to cigarette smoking, and the best way to prevent COPD is to never smoke — or to stop smoking now. You can do a lot to help manage your condition yourself. Keeping active and doing exercise can make a big difference — many people find this helps them more than inhaled drugs. Also find out what else you can do and where you can find more information on managing your condition.
If you have COPD, being active and exercising can help you to improve your breathing, fitness and quality of life. Regular exercise can help reverse this by strengthening your muscles. Exercise also benefits your heart and blood pressure, and makes you less likely to develop conditions such as diabetes and osteoporosis fragile bone disease.
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The best way to learn how to exercise at the right level for you is to take part in pulmonary rehabilitation. Ask your doctor to refer you. Remember again that it is not harmful to make yourself breathless. There are techniques and positions that can help you cope when you get out of breath and feel more in control of your breathing. Some people with COPD who joined a singing group said singing helped them to manage their symptoms better. Try different breathing techniques to find what helps you. There are also positions that can help you to practise breathing control or to control your breathing when you get breathless.
Talk to your respiratory physiotherapist or nurse to find out what works for you.
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Have a look at the techniques and positions. Using a handheld battery-powered fan to blow air onto your face can help you to feel less breathless. Find simple ways to cook, clean and do other chores. You could use a small table or cart with wheels to move things around your home, and a pole or tongs with long handles to reach things. Using a wheeled walking frame can make it easier to get around if you are short of breath.
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What are chronic respiratory conditions?
This article takes a look at some choices that can help with COPD, along with how best to slow the progress of the disease. Although there is currently no cure for COPD, there are many ways that a person can reduce their symptoms and slow disease progression.
How common are chronic respiratory conditions?
They include:. Smoking causes 85—90 percent of COPD cases. The best thing that a person who smokes and has COPD can do is stop smoking cigarettes altogether.