- by Specialist Hospital
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- Sep 13 2017
What is COPD - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.
Cigarette smoking is the biggest cause. If you hang around other smokers a lot, that can play a role, too. You might also develop this condition if you’ve been exposed to things like dust, air pollution, or certain chemicals for long periods of time.
In rare cases, your genes may put you at risk for COPD. People who lack a protein called alpha 1 antitrypsin (AAT) may be more likely to develop it. If they smoke and have COPD, it tends to get worse faster.
Many people mistake their increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging. In the early stages of the disease, you may not notice the symptoms. COPD can develop for years without noticeable shortness of breath. You begin to see the symptoms in the more developed stages of the disease. That’s why it is important that you talk to your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. Ask your doctor about taking a spirometry test.
Symptoms of COPD:
These are the most common signs of COPD:
A cough that doesn't go away
Coughing up lots of mucus
Shortness of breath, especially when you’re physically active
Tightness in the chest
Risk Factors and Common Causes of COPD:
Most cases of COPD are caused by inhaling pollutants; that includes smoking (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, etc.), and second-hand smoke.
Fumes, chemicals and dust found in many work environments are contributing factors for many individuals who develop COPD.
Genetics can also play a role in an individual’s development of COPD—even if the person has never smoked or has ever been exposed to strong lung irritants in the workplace.
Here is more information on the top three risk factors for developing COPD:
COPD most often occurs in people 40 years of age and older who have a history of smoking.
COPD can also occur in those who have had long-term contact with harmful pollutants in the workplace. Some of these harmful lung irritants include certain chemicals, dust, or fumes. Heavy or long-term contact with secondhand smoke or other lung irritants in the home, such as organic cooking fuel, may also cause COPD.
Even if an individual has never smoked or been exposed to pollutants for an extended period of time, they can still develop COPD. Alpha-1 Antitrypsin related COPD is caused by a deficiency of the Alpha-1 Antitrypsin protein in the bloodstream. Without the Alpha-1 Antitrypsin protein, white blood cells begin to harm the lungs and lung deterioration occurs.
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