05 Oct What causes Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) describes a group of lung diseases that have one major symptom in common: difficulty breathing that increases over time. Other symptoms include:
- Increased breathlessness, or difficulty catching your breath
- Frequent cough
COPD usually starts after age 40.The most significant risk factor is smoking, and if you have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in your entire life, you are at risk for COPD. But it’s important to realize that 25% of people with COPD have never smoked.
Other risk factors include environmental pollutants and genetic factors. Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD) is a rare disorder that increases your risk of developing emphysema. If someone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with COPD, you can ask your doctor for an AATD genetic test.
How do I know if I have COPD?
Lung function declines with age, and many factors like asthma and obesity affect breathing. How do you know if your symptoms are COPD?
If difficulty breathing that affects your normal daily activities, your doctor can do the following tests. If you have risk factors for COPD, it is important to get these done as early as possible. We can now detect COPD before symptoms occur and slow the progression of the disease.
- Lung Function Test (Spirometry): This measures the amount of air you can inhale and exhale.
- Chest X-Ray or CT scan can show any damage to the air sacs, and rule out other lung problems.
- Arterial Blood Gas: This measures how well your lungs deliver oxygen to your blood.
Remember, these test can detect COPD before symptoms are severe! But if you already experience a cough and difficulty breathing, try this COPD screening test:
Types of COPD
- Emphysema is damage to the walls of air sacs in your lungs. These sacs become floppy and cannot hold air. As a result, the amount of air that you can inhale and exhale goes down.
- Chronic bronchitis: Bronchitis is irritation or inflammation of the airways in the lungs. The tissue begins to swell and produces thick mucus that blocks air exchange, making it harder to breathe. The term “chronic” means that the symptoms persist or worsen over time.
The majority of COPD patients have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. There are currently no treatments that can reverse the damage. But you can slow the progression of the disease.
How to slow down symptoms
- Quit smoking and stay indoors on heavy pollution days.
- Manage symptoms with medication. COPD progresses because damage builds over time. If you take your medication regularly, you can prevent further damage from occurring.
- Increase exercise activity. Even normal activities like walking and taking the stairs help to maintain lung function. If COPD symptoms interfere, ask your doctor if additional medications are available.
- Pulmonary rehab: this is a rehabilitation that trains the muscles and heart to work more efficiently. It can also help clear mucus build up in the lungs. Rehab requires a visit to a specialist for exercise and breathing therapy.
- Diet: If you are overweight or obese, the added weight on your lungs and stomach makes it more difficult to breathe. Weight loss is the best thing you can do to for your lungs. Your heart will not have to work as hard to circulate blood. Reducing body mass over the chest allows your lungs to expand further.