COPD Risk Factors
COPD (or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung disease that affects the passage of air to and from the lungs. Many who suffer from COPD experience symptoms such as wheezing, excessive mucus production, cough, and difficulties with breathing. The disease develops due to exposure over a long term to irritants. Most commonly, COPD is directly caused by cigarette smoking. Once COPD has developed within the body, the risk heightens for lung cancer, heart disease, and a multitude of other complications.
COPD is a combination of both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. However, other conditions can be associated with COPD. Chronic bronchitis is diagnosed when the bronchial tubes of the lungs are inflamed. The bronchial tubes are responsible for routing air in and out of the lungs. Its most common symptoms are excess mucus production and persistent cough. Emphysema is diagnosed when the small air sacs inside the lungs become destroyed due to excessive damage over a long period of time.
Although there is no cure for COPD, it can be treated. When COPD is properly managed, excellent symptom control is possible, and the risks of other conditions are significantly lowered.
Risk Factors for COPD
There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the onset of COPD. These include:
- Long term exposure to cigarette smoke. As a rule of thumb, the longer a person smokes, the higher their risk will be for developing COPD. Along with cigarette smokers, others who are at risk include cigar smokers, pipe smokers, and marijuana smokers. Even those who are often exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk for COPD.
- Smoking with asthma. Asthma is already a condition that constricts and negatively impacts the airways. Smoking with asthma only more-so heightens the risk for COPD.
- Exposure to chemicals and dusts. Those who work in occupations that increase exposure to chemical vapors, fumes, and dusts are exceptionally at risk. These irritants can inflame and damage the lungs.
- Age factors. Because COPD is a slowly progressive condition, it takes a considerably long period of time before it is noticeable with symptoms. This is why it often isn’t diagnosed in people until they are at least 35-40 yeass of age.
- Genetic predisposition. A particular genetic disorder known as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency has been linked to the onset of COPD. There are a handful of other genetic factors that can make a person more vulnerable to the onset of COPD.
If you think you could be at a heightened risk for developing COPD or if you believe that you already have it, you should speak to your doctor right away. He/she will help you develop an appropriate treatment plan for prevention or management of your symptoms.