Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a systemic and disabling fatal condition with a progressive course, characterized by lung function impairment with not fully reversible airflow limitation. It represents a major health problem worldwide and it is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality.
Many, who suffer from such condition, have a combination of emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma. You may also hear COPD referred to as COAD (Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease), COLD (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) or CAL (Chronic Airways Limitation).
People at Risk
Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. People who have a family history are more likely to develop the disease, if they also smoke.
Long-term exposure to other lung irritants may also be a factor. Examples of other lung irritants include passive smoking, air pollution, and chemical fumes and dust from the environment or workplace.
Most people who suffer from such a condition are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin. Although uncommon, people younger than 40 can also suffer from this condition.
Symptoms of COPD
COPD symptoms include the following:
- A cough that doesn’t go away.
- Sputum (mucus) production, especially in the morning.
- Shortness of breath, especially with exertion (for example, walking, climbing stairs).
- Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe).
- Chest tightness.
Shortness of breath is the COPD symptom that most undiagnosed people go to see a doctor. At first, shortness of breath is only noticeable with physical exertion, but eventually breathlessness will hamper routine activities of living, like washing, dressing, and cooking. A chronic cough may at first be irregular, but later may occur every day.
Testing for COPD
If your doctor thinks you may have COPD, he or she may recommend a test called spirometry. It is also called Pulmonary Function Testing.
Spirometry testing may be done in your doctor’s office or in a hospital. During the test:
- A tube is connected to the spirometer.
- You place your mouth on the tube and take the deepest breath possible.
- You then blow out as hard and as fast as possible.
There is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Damage done to the lungs is permanent, and causes air to be trapped in the lungs even after a person exhales, resulting in shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. While treatments can alleviate symptoms and improve airflow, it cannot cure it. Prevention is the best cure: don’t smoke, or stop smoking immediately to reduce your risk for developing COPD.