The basics of COPD

The basics of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to the cluster of lung problems, which includes emphysema and bronchitis. Individuals suffering from this disease have greater chances of contracting lung cancer, heart issues, and other dangerous conditions. It’s a progressive disease that triggers “obstructive airflow” from the lungs. COPD occurs mostly in people over the age of 40. This health condition can be treated and managed for a better quality of life.

How is COPD diagnosed?
COPD can be diagnosed using various blood tests, lung function test, and imaging tests. Additionally, for proper diagnosis “pulmonary function tests” like lung diffusion, spirometry, or even body plethysmography are conducted. Sometimes, the patient is also screened for Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency.

There are actually four stages of COPD, namely, mild, moderate, severe, and very severe. A spirometry test helps to reveal what stage the disease is in.

What are the most common indications of COPD?
Symptoms, normally, don’t crop up until major damage to the lungs has not occurred. If there is acute bronchitis, the most common indication is a recurrent cough.

Other indications of COPD include:

  • Wheezing
  • Breathlessness, especially while engaging in physical activities
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Tiredness
  • Catching respiratory infections frequently
  • Swollen feet, ankles, or legs
  • The need to clear the throat after waking up every morning as excess mucus gets lodged in the lungs
  • A severe cough that brings out mucus that may be yellow, white, or even green
  • A tinge of blueness on the bed of the fingernails or lips
  • Loss of weight, if the disease has advanced

What causes COPD?
Smoking is a major trigger for COPD and even passive smoking can cause COPD in people. Outdoor and indoor pollution, asthma, and constant exposure to various chemicals while working can also trigger this disease.

How is COPD treated?
If one happens to be a smoker, quitting smoking is one of the best solutions to cope with the disease. Along with this, one may require:

  • Oxygen therapy– If the indications of COPD seem to be extremely severe, oxygen therapy may be required.
  • Medicines– Medications including oral steroids, expectorants, inhaled corticosteroids, inhaled bronchodilators, and antibiotics may be used to treat COPD. The doctor may prescribe rescue medications that need to be resorted to when the condition becomes severe and maintenance medicines as well that need to be had on a daily basis.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation– This can help to a great extent in controlling the disease.
  • Surgery of the lungs– Three kinds of surgery can be conducted if the disease has progressed too much. This includes lung transplant; bullectomy, which is getting rid of the enlarged bullae that are present in the lungs; or volume reduction surgery that removes the damaged portion of the lung tissues.
  • Airway clearing techniques– This includes various techniques that help to get rid of the mucus that is obstructing the airways like physiotherapy of the chest, expectorants, and controlled coughing.
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