COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

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COPD facts

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a slowly progressive obstruction of airflow into or out of the lungs.
  • The primary cause of COPD is cigarette smoking and/or exposure to tobacco smoke; other causes include air pollution, infectious diseases and genetic problems.
  • The risk of COPD is increased by smoking tobacco, secondhand smoke, air pollution, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and a few other problems.
  • Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and infectious diseases can contribute to the development of COPD.
  • Symptoms of COPD include
  • Progressive or more serious symptoms may include
    • respiratory distress,
    • tachypnea,
    • cyanosis,
    • use of accessory respiratory muscles,
    • peripheral edema,
    • hyperinflation,
    • chronic wheezing,
    • abnormal lung sounds,
    • prolonged expiration,
    • elevated jugular venous pulse, and
    • cyanosis.
  • The stages of COPD range from stage I to stage IV. As the stage number increases the disease progressively becomes worse; stage IV is also known as "end stage" COPD.
  • Depending upon the stage of COPD, other doctors besides the patient's primary care physician may be involved and may include pulmonologists, lung surgeons, and/or other professionals such as pulmonary rehabilitation specialists and other team members.
  • Individuals should contact their doctors about COPD if they experience any of the signs or symptoms of COPD.
  • COPD is diagnosed by patient's breathing history and exposure to cigarette smoking or other agents. A pulmonologist usually determines the stage of COPD by their FEV1 level.
  • The treatment for COPD includes avoidance of any of the likely causes such as cigarette smoke or toxic fumes and by medications or, in a small number of patients, lung surgery or lung transplant.
  • Individuals with COPD should contact their health-care professional before treating themselves with home remedies (for example, vitamins, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids).
  • Medical treatments for COPD include medications to stop smoking, various bronchodilators, anticholinergics, steroids, and enzyme inhibitors.
  • Other therapies for COPD may include antibiotics, mucolytic agents, oxygen, endurance exercises, and yoga.
  • Surgery for COPD may include bullectomy, lung volume reduction or lung transplant.
  • Prevention or risk lowering for COPD includes avoidance of causes (smoking, for example) or vaccines that protect the lungs from infection (for example, the flu and pneumococcal vaccines).
  • The prognosis and life expectancy for individuals with COPD ranges from good to poor, depending on the person's COPD stage, with a decreasing outlook as the stages progress toward stage IV.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/4/2015

COPD Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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Symptoms of COPD include chronic cough, shortness of breath, and recurrent lung infections

COPD Symptoms and Signs

COPD is characterized by a longstanding (chronic) obstruction to air flow out of the lungs. It can take different forms and have different symptoms. Symptoms of COPD can also vary in severity.

COPD Symptoms include:

  • a chronic cough,
  • shortness of breath,
  • and frequent respiratory infections

Other COPD possible symptoms can include

  • finger clubbing,
  • wheezing, exercise intolerance,
  • chest tightness,
  • cough productive of sputum,
  • and coughing up blood.