4 Facts You Should Know About COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a disease that affects the long-term health of lungs in different ways. It is known as a progressive disease because it gets worse over time and causes shortness of breath.

Most people with COPD smoke or used to smoke, however up to 25% of those with COPD have never smoked. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants – such as polluted air, chemical fumes, or dust – can also contribute to this disease.

1. COPD OVERVIEW

In COPD, the amount of air that enters and leaves the airways decreases for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The bronchioles and alveoli lose their elasticity.
  • The walls separating many of the alveoli are destroyed.
  • The walls of the bronchioles become thick and inflamed.
  • The bronchioles produce more mucus than usual and can become clogged.

2. SYMPTOMS

At first, COPD may cause mild symptoms or none at all. As the disease gets worse, symptoms worsen. Common signs and symptoms are:

  • A persistent cough or cough that produces a lot of mucus (phlegm) known as “smoker’s cough
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness.

3. DIAGNOSIS

If you have a persistent cough, it’s important to tell your doctor how long you’ve had it, how much you cough, and how much mucus you cough up. You should also tell them if there are other people with COPD in your family.

Your doctor will examine and listen to your chest with a stethoscope for wheezing or other abnormal sounds. He or she may also recommend one or more tests to diagnose COPD, for example:

  • Spirometry
  • Chest x-ray
  • CT chest scan
  • Arterial blood gas test

4. COPD AROUND THE WORLD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic and highly debilitating respiratory disease that affects more than 600 million people worldwide and is the fourth leading cause of death in the world.

In Mexico, the problem occurs in two specific population groups: smokers and, to a lesser extent, women who cook with firewood. This disease principally manifests as shortness of breath and appears after the first 10 years of tobacco addiction, following consumption of 10 or more cigarettes per day. Unlike other organs, lungs degenerate rapidly, therefore, smokers accelerate this process of declining lung function. However, a genetic predisposition to this disease is very important.

For pulmonologists (lung specialists), it is essential to achieve an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for patients and thus a better quality of life through the use of new drugs and pulmonary rehabilitation.

Contains information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

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