COPD – Causes and Prevention

COPD – Causes and Prevention

While we have managed to lower the cases of some of the most deadly diseases of the history such as tuberculosis, a number of other health conditions have risen. Today, the leading causes of death in the United States include the diseases you commonly see around you.

For example, diabetes is now the most prevalent disease in the world, affecting over 50 million people. It has also been linked to many other diseases and multiple organ failures leading to death.

RELATED: Tuberculosis – A Comprehensive Guide 

The three diseases that cause the highest number of deaths across the world have been observed to be related to heart, lungs, and kidney where coronary heart disease tops the list.

Statistically, conditions related to lungs have been increasing faster than both kidney and heart diseases due to many factors but mainly air pollution, smoking, and untreated or undiagnosed health risks that are linked to the lungs.

The chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Also known as COPD, the disease causes mass inflammation in the lungs leading to difficulty in breathing due to restricted air flow.

This is by far the most common symptom of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Looking into the disease, it can be mixture various conditions of the lungs. Therefore, it can also act as an umbrella term for disorders related to lungs.

More than 15 million people are said to be diagnosed with COPD and its symptoms. Moreover, another report shows that there are an estimated 24 million people who have the disease without even realizing that they do.

COPD can include many of the other severe lung disorders such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. In many cases, you can also have two of these at the same time.

The leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease up till now is tobacco. Over 50% of the adults in the United States are indulged in smoking, many of them even being asthma patients who already face difficulty in breathing.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

The reason why the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is currently one of the most deadly is because of the problems related to its symptoms and diagnosis. COPD symptoms do not appear until the lungs have been greatly damaged.

If you get COPD due to smoking and it is undiagnosed, chances are the condition of the lungs will worsen even more. The disease can effectively destroy the respiratory system over the period of time.

COPD includes bronchiectasis, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and constriction of airways. All of these lung disorders have irreversible damage to the lungs. The restricted airflow caused by them cannot be fully treated.

Chronic bronchitis in COPD mainly has the symptoms of sputum and cough for 3-4 months straight every year for at least two years. You can also feel a mild pain when you breathe or have a sore throat perpetually.

Other symptoms of COPD include:

  • Wheezing
  • Chronic cough
  • Frequently occurring respiratory infections
  • Blocked throat due to excess mucus in the lungs
  • Weight Loss
  • Shortness of breath in even everyday activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing up a very large quantity of mucus
  • Blueness in the nails or around the lips
  • Watery eyes
  • Burning sensation while breathing
  • Pain in the chest

 

Having one of these symptoms every day means you immediately need to see the doctor. The earlier the diagnosis of the chronic obstructive respiratory syndrome, the higher the chances of a successful treatment.

A test designed specifically to check up on the pulmonary functioning of the lungs that is also done for all health conditions related to the lungs called spirometry test is also needed for detection of COPD and its symptoms.

Exacerbation is a period of time in which a COPD patient’s symptoms worsen. These exacerbation episodes can happen at any time and last for many days. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins concentrated on what triggers the exacerbation episode.

According to the study, high temperature indoors plays a big role on the worsening of COPD symptoms along with air pollution. Higher temperatures can trigger exacerbation periods easily and can have effects lasting for 4-5 days.

The European Respiratory society has also highlighted the effect of outdoors on COPD patients. The change in environment, specifically the rise of greenhouse gases, pollution, climate change, higher temperatures, a rise in pollen, and melting ice can worsen COPD.

The most effective way to avoiding an exacerbation period this way is to stay indoors, maintain a cleaner environment inside, turn on the air conditioner most of the time, and avoid outdoor activities as much as you can especially during the summers.

Seeing how to react to changes in temperature, season, and surrounding can also be of great help to know what you should keep away from. Monitoring the body’s responses is also typically suggested by the doctors.

Generally, there are four stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:

  • Stages One – Mild COPD
  • Stage Two – Moderate COPD
  • Stage Three – Severe COPD (this is where symptoms of emphysema or chronic bronchitis start to show)
  • Stage Four – Extremely severe COPD

 

The effects and suffering of the patient of COPD get more severe with every stage of the disease. Life expectancy of the patient becomes shorter as COPD develops from stage one to stage two causing early death.

Unfortunately, there are no cures for the disease available at the time that has been proven to be effective. However, the habits of the person with COPD determine how fast the progression from stage 1 o four goes.

If you have COPD and you still do not avoid smoking and follow your doctor’s guidelines, it will obviously result in faster progression.

How to prevent COPD?

The chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is one of the fastest and deadliest rising diseases in the United States with no trusted treatments. While there might not be any definite treatment for the disease, you can always prevent getting it in the first place.

Smoking and tobacco exposure is the main reason behind the rise of COPD in the developed regions of the world combined with air pollution. Since the city you live is already probably polluted, smoking frequently can greatly increase your chances of lung disorders.

Smoking is not only bad for the person who is doing it but for the people around him as well. Secondhand tobacco exposure can also cause other people to develop COPD and lung infections.

If you happen to continue smoking after your middle ages, you are at the highest risk of getting COPD. Age plays a big part when it comes to getting COPD. The older you are, the higher the chances are of getting the disease.

People who smoke while suffering from other breathing problems can end up developing COPD. Taking asthma lightly and smoking along with it is one of the biggest mistakes you can ever make.

On the other hand, the other most common cause of COPD is occupational exposure to chemicals, dust, and vapors. If you happen to work or live in a place where you are at the risk of being exposed, consider wearing safety masks or staying away as much as possible.

Another rare cause of COPD is genetics. About 1% of the COPD have the disease due to a genetic disorder which lowers the protein alpha – 1 antitrypsin. This protein is responsible primarily for the protection of the lungs.

While in specific cases, it might be impossible to avoid getting the disease but it can generally be avoided by not smoking, maintaining a distance from smokers, wearing safety masks, following precautions at a workplace if it deals with chemicals, and staying healthy.

 

SOURCES:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs292/en/
http://thorax.bmj.com/content/65/3/221
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4131503/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0022631/

 

 

 

 

 

 

The author is a Medical Microbiologist and a healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health.

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