“Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”
What causes it? Risk groups, treatment, and prevention of COPD.
What is the problem?
Chronic respiratory diseases are chronic conditions of the airways and other lung structures. Some of the most common are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension. Chronic lower respiratory disease, primarily Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), is the most severe respiratory problem. COPD causes airflow blockage and breathing-related problems.
What causes COPD?
Tobacco smoke is the key factor in the development and progression of COPD. Exposure to air pollutants in the workplace and home, genetic factors, and respiratory infections also play an important role. In the developing countries, indoor air quality has a greater influence on the development and progression of COPD than it does in the United States.
Risk groups of COPD
The chronic lower respiratory disease was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2014. Almost 15.7 million Americans (6.4%) reported that they had been diagnosed with COPD. More than half of the adults with low pulmonary function were not aware that they had COPD. So, the actual number may be even higher. The following groups of people are more likely to develop COPD.
- Current or former smokers;
- People with a history of asthma;
- The aged over 65 years;
- American Indian/Alaska Natives and multiracial non-Hispanics;
- Individuals who were unemployed, retired, or unable to work;
- Individuals with less than a high school education;
- Individuals who were divorced, widowed or separated;
Complications or post-effects of COPD
Compared to adults without COPD, adults with this disease are more likely to have the following complications or post-effects.
- Activity limitations such as difficulty walking or climbing stairs;
- Inability to work;
- Needs of special equipment such as portable oxygen tanks;
- Restriction from social activities such as going to group events, eating out or meeting with friends and neighbors;
- Increased confusion or memory loss.
- More emergency room visits or overnight hospital stays.
- Other chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, congestive heart failure, stroke, coronary heart disease, or asthma;
- Depression or other mental or emotional condition;
- Overall fair or poor health status.
How is COPD treated?
Treatment of COPD requires a very careful and thorough evaluation by a physician. COPD treatment can:
- alleviate symptoms;
- decrease the frequency and severity of exacerbations;
- increase exercise tolerance.
For smokers, the most important aspect of treatment is to stop smoking. It is also very important to avoid tobacco smoke and to remove other air pollutants from the home or workplace of the patient. Symptoms such as wheezing or coughing can be treated with medication. Pulmonary rehabilitation is an individualized treatment program. It teaches COPD management strategies to increase the quality of life. The program may include breathing techniques, energy-conserving strategies, exercise training, and nutritional advice. Lung infections can cause dangerous issues in people with COPD. Certain vaccines, such as flu and pneumococcal vaccines, are extremely important for people with COPD. Learn more about vaccination recommendations. If appropriate, respiratory infections should be treated with antibiotics. Supplemental oxygen is often prescribed to patients who have low blood oxygen levels.
COPD can be prevented
This advice is valid for everybody, but be very careful, especially, if you are in the risk groups.
- Avoid inhaling tobacco smoke.
- Stay away from home and workplace air pollutants.
- Prevent respiratory infections.
Early detection of COPD may change its course and progress. A simple test, called spirometry, can be used to measure the lung function. It detects COPD in anyone with breathing problems.