Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD is the name for a group of lung related diseases associated with breathlessness that include: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis.

Emphysema is when the alveoli become over inflated which is due to damage to the lung tissue. They break down and the lungs become baggy and full of holes which trap air.

Chronic Bronchitis is when the airways in the lungs are inflamed and subsequently narrowed.

Refractory asthma is when someone experiences frequent asthma attacks and low lung function.

Bronchiectasis is when the airways widen and are unable to clear themselves out. This leads to an increase in mucus which results in a build up of bacteria.

With COPD, the airways are narrowed because:

  • the lung tissue is damaged so there is less pull on the airways
  • the elastic lining of the airways flops
  • the airway lining is inflamed

Causes include:

  • Smoking
  • Occupation
  • Genetics

Symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Increased phlegm production
  • Chest infections

A spirometer test is a frequent and easy way to diagnose COPD and patients are often given test spirometers to take home and log their readings over a course of three weeks.

Treatment:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Lung transplants
  • Inhalers
  • Medication
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation

Overall, COPD is a manageable disease that is preventable if one focus’ on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

 

References:

https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/copd

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx

http://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/Understanding-COPD/What-is-COPD.aspx

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