What is COPD
Commonly referred to as COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a condition that affects breathing. It is a progressive condition, meaning that it worsens with time.
COPD is marked by coughing, production of mucus, tightness in the chest, breath shortness, wheezing, and similar symptoms. COPD is most commonly caused by cigarette smoking. Almost any person with COPD is a smoker or a former smoker. Exposure to fumes, air pollution, and dust can also contribute to the onset of COPD.
The Basics of COPD
Fully understanding COPD starts with understand basic lung function. When you inhale air, it travels to your lungs via your windpipe and bronchial airways. In the lungs, bronchial airways branch out into smaller airways known as bronchioles. At the ends of these tiny “branches” are air sacs known as alveoli.
The air sacs’ walls contain capillaries, or small blood vessels. Once air enters the air sacs, oxygen moves through the walls and into capillaries. Simultaneously, carbon dioxide exits the capillaries and enters the air sacs. This is what is known as “gas exchange.”
Both the sacs and airways are elastic-like. They expand when air inhaled, and they deflate when air is exhaled. When a person has COPD, less air is able to flow through the airways for any number of reasons including:
- Elasticity has been lost in the air sacs and airways.
- Many of the air sacs’ walls have been damaged or destroyed.
- Airway walls are inflamed and inflamed.
- The airways are clogged with mucus.
COPD is a term used to encompass two conditions: both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. When emphysema is present, many of the the air sacs’ walls have sustained damage. This causes the air sacs to take on a “floppy” consistency. As the condition progresses, air sac walls are inevitably destroyed. This leads to large air sacs that are few in number as opposed to small air sacs that are plentiful in number. This causes overall gas exchange to reduce.
Chronic bronchitis is marked by continual inflammation and irritation in the airways. The lining thickens, and excess mucus clogs the airways, creating breathing difficulties.
Living with COPD
Many people are disabled because of COPD, and it is one of the most common causes of death for Americans. Many people are currently living with the condition. It is estimated that many others are unaware that they have the condition at all.
COPD a slowly-developing condition. Symptoms can become worse with time, and they can eventually hinder you from general activities such as walking, performing household chores, or caring for yourself.
Mostly middle-aged and elderly people are diagnosed with COPD. It is not contagious, and it can’t be “spread.”
There currently is no cure for COPD, and it isn’t yet clear how to fix the damage it causes to the lungs. Lifestyle changes and treatment can improve symptoms, however, and they can help slow the condition’s progress and make physical activity easier.