Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes the obstruction of airflow from the lungs.
The main cause of the disease is smoking tobacco, although people who have been exposed to fumes from burning fuel in poorly ventilated rooms are also at a great risk.
Air pollution, genetic problems, and infectious diseases have also been shown to cause COPD.
COPD symptoms usually don’t appear until extensive damage to the lungs has occurred.
A person may be diagnosed with the condition until after 35 years of age.
Actually, the majority of the affected people are diagnosed with COPD when they are over 50 years.
Most people are not even aware of their condition until the symptoms start showing.
Usually, this is because the lungs are very resilient and can sustain a considerable amount of damage before showing any symptoms.
Since COPD is a progressive disease, signs and symptoms may be mild at first, and then become severe with time.
Common symptoms of COPD include;
• Shortness of breath (breathlessness or dyspnea) especially during physical activities.
• Persistent Cough
• Producing Sputum/Mucus/Phlegm
• Morning Headaches
• Chest Tightness
• A chronic cough that produces either clear, white, yellow, or greenish sputum
• Frequent Respiratory Infections
• Reduced Energy
• Bluish Lips or Fingernail Beds
• Unintended Weight Loss
• Swollen Ankles
People suffering from COPD are also likely to experience exacerbations, also known as “flares-up,” during which the symptoms become worse and more severe than the usual day-to-day variations, and may continue for several days.
It’s during such episodes that many people get admitted to the hospital.
The symptoms of COPD often get worse during winter, just like it’s easy to catch a cold during the season.
Unlike other respiratory infections, COPD does not cause chest pain and haemoptysis (coughing up blood).
These symptoms are usually caused by other complications such as chest infection or in rare cases, lung cancer.
Prevention and Treatment
Prevention of COPD or lowering the risk of developing the condition involves avoidance of the specific causes such as smoking, air pollutants, or getting vaccines that protect the lungs from infections.
Such vaccines include pneumococcal and flu vaccines.
COPD is treatable, but only if the diagnosis is made early enough before the lungs become adversely affected.
Also, with proper management of the condition, many people can generally achieve excellent symptom control as well as quality of life.
It can also help reduce the risk of other associated conditions.