Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a long-term disease that affects the health of the 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 people 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.
GENERAL INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND COPD
In COPD, the amount of air moving in and out of the airways decreases for one or more of the following reasons:
- The bronchi and alveoli lose their elasticity.
- The walls that separate many of the alveoli are destroyed.
- The bronchi walls become thick and inflamed.
- The bronchi produce more mucus than normal and can become blocked.
At first, COPD may cause non or mild symptoms. As the disease worsens, the symptoms become more severe. Common signs and symptoms are:
- Persistent cough or cough that produces a lot of mucus (phlegm) known as “smoker’s cough”.
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity.
- Wheezing when breathing.
- Chest pressure.
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. Also tell him or her if there are other people with COPD in your family.
Your doctor will examine you and listen to your chest with a stethoscope for wheezing (whistling or screeching when you breathe) or other abnormal sounds. He or she may also recommend one or more tests to diagnose COPD, such as:
- Chest x-ray
- Computed tomography of the chest.
- Arterial blood gas analysis.
COPD AND THE WORLD
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic and highly disabling respiratory disease that affects more than 600 million people and ranks fourth as a cause of death worldwide.
In Mexico, the problem occurs in two specific groups of the population: smokers and, to a lesser degree, in women who cook with firewood. This disease’s main symptom is difficulty breathing and occurs after the first 10 years of tobacco addiction consuming 10 or more cigarettes per day, because unlike other organs, the lung degenerates rapidly. Therefore, the person who smokes accelerates this lung function degeneration process. However, this disease’s genetic predisposition is very important.
For pulmonologists (specialists in lung diseases), the main thing is to achieve an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for patients and thus a better quality of life through the use of new medications and pulmonary rehabilitation.
With information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute