Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive form of lung disease ranging from mild to severe. It is characterized by a restriction of airflow into and out of the lungs that makes breathing difficult. The term COPD encompasses emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis.
COPD Limits the Quality of Life
Many sufferers have trouble walking short distances and are especially susceptible to illness and pneumonia. Often, sufferers need oxygen support 24 hours per day. If you show signs of emphysema or chronic bronchitis you may have COPD. The long term effects of COPD result in an enlargement of the right side of the heart and eventual death. There is no cure for COPD but treatment options are available to prevent more damage and improve quality of life.
Men and Women
In the past, men were most commonly affected with COPD. However with the rise of tobacco use by females, specifically in high-income countries, men and women are now afflicted almost equally. In 2007, approximately 64,000 women in America died of COPD compared to 60,000 men.
Individuals 40 Years and Older
COPD is a progressive disease and therefore affects people later in life. As a result, current or former smokers 40 years or older are the most commonly afflicted with COPD. However, the age of the sufferer directly relates to the age at which his or her lungs were damaged. For example, a child who grew up in a heavily polluted area may be at risk to developing COPD much earlier in life.
Cigarette smokers are at the highest risk of developing COPD. The toxins in cigarette smoke absorb into the bronchial walls causing the inflammation and damage that leads to COPD. However, not all smokers develop symptoms. More research needs to be done as to why COPD only affects some smokers and not others. It is speculated that nutrition, genetic factors and other external influences contribute to the likelihood of COPD development.
Alpha-1-antitypsin deficiency causes COPD in a small percentage of people. Those with this deficiency do not need to be a smoker to be susceptible to this disease. It can also strike at a young age.
A long-term exposure to dust and chemicals can cause COPD-related inflammation in the lungs.
Proper lung health is imperative to a person’s overall health. There are many related conditions and medical diseases that can impact the quality of your breathing and are not limited to the lung diseases treated at the Lung Institute. Below you will find more information about conditions that are intimately connected to the lungs and lung disease.