What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a slowly progressive disease that causes symptoms such as breathlessness and cough.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a slowly progressive disease that causes symptoms such as breathlessness and cough.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of diseases with the chief symptom of breathlessness and cough. COPD is a slowly progressive disease and affects approximately 32 million Americans.

COPD leads to airflow obstruction due to the following reasons:

  • Tiny air sacs in the lungs that are responsible for oxygen transfer to the blood lose their capacity to stretch and shrink back.
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are damaged.
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed. 
  • Oversecretion of the mucus blocks the airflow.

The diseases in the COPD spectrum are as follows:

What are the signs and symptoms of COPD?

In the initial stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), there may be no symptoms. Later, the following non-specific symptoms are seen:

When the disease progresses, the symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Swelling in the feet and ankles
  • Gasping for breath
  • Feeling of missed beat or palpitations
  • Respiratory failure
  • Blue or gray lips and/or fingernails 
  • Disorientation

Who is at a risk of getting COPD?

Patients with the following conditions are at a risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD):

  • Continuous exposure to air pollution
  • Smokers
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Infectious diseases that destroy the lung tissue
  • Chronic asthma
  • Immune deficiency syndromes
  • Vasculitis syndrome (inflammation in the blood vessels)
  • Connective tissue disorders (diseases that affect the parts of the body that connect the structures of the body)
  • Genetic problems such as Salla disease

Which tests do physicians use to diagnose COPD?

Physicians use the following methods and tests to diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD):

  • Taking a through history
  • History of tobacco smoking, occupational exposure to dust and chemicals
  • Information about exposure to air pollutants or history of any lung disease
  • Chest X-rays
  • Spirometry (lung function tests)
  • Computed tomography (CT) of the lungs
  • Measurement of the saturation level of oxygen in the blood with the help of arterial blood gas or a pulse oximeter

QUESTION

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the same as adult-onset asthma. See Answer

How is COPD treated?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) management involves various therapies, which include:

  • Cessation of cigarette smoking
  • Taking vitamin and nutritional supplements
  • Exercise training and breathing exercises
  • Nutritional counseling therapy
  • Energy-conserving therapies
  • Psychological counseling 

Medications to treat COPD include the following:

Patients with severe COPD may require a surgery to remove the diseased portion of the lung or even lung transplantation.

What is the life expectancy of someone with COPD?

Depending on the disease severity, the five-year life expectancy for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ranges from 40%-70%. That means 40-70 out of 100 people will be alive after five years of diagnosis of  COPD. 

COPD is a chronic, gradually progressing lung disease that is not completely curable. Timely medical treatments can slow the progression of this disease.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/7/2020