Overview of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name given to a collection of lung disease such as Emphysema, chronic Bronchitis, and Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease. The disease is manifested by difficulty in breathing due to obstruction in the respiratory tract. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease is a condition in which the patient finds difficult to breathe due to limited airflow through the lungs, this happens when there is a long term damage to the lung tissues, there will be inflammation of lung tissues which leads to permanent changes in them. The airway walls become thick and there is accumulation of mucus in it, the air sacs present in the lungs lose their elasticity as a result it cannot accumulate more air resulting in difficult breathing. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease is a progressive disease which is not fully reversible.

Around 90% cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease are caused due to smoking, other factors include age, air pollution and genetic factors. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease most commonly affects people over the age of 35. It is found that men are affected more than women. This disease is more prominent in countries like UK. In a survey around 8,35,000 people living in UK have been diagnosed by this disease, furthermore it is estimated that about 2 million people of UK are affected by this disease, who are undiagnosed due to lack of proper medical attention. (

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary diseases (COPD) have a serious impact on the health. The patient is unable to carry out his day to day activity due to ill health, there will be breathlessness, cough, and excessive production of mucus inside the respiratory tract. These symptoms are attributed due to Emphysema (difficult to breathe due to obstruction in airway), and Bronchitis (Inflammation of the Bronchi).

Help and Support

The patient should be counseled and educated about smoking and its ill effects as the most common etiological factor for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is smoking. Once the patient quits smoking, the chances of getting COPD gradually decrease and also it slows down the progress of disease. Other factors causing this disease are occupational factors such as exposure to toxic chemicals such as people working in coal mines, chemical factories inhale these toxic chemicals, hence more prone to the disease. Necessary steps should be taken to protect these people from the hazardous effects of these chemical substances, also people should be educated about the precautions to be taken while working in these areas.

Overcoming the effects of COPD

The first step in overcoming the effects of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is its diagnosis. Diagnosis can be considered to people showing the signs and symptoms such as breathing difficulty, chronic cough, excessive sputum production, people exposed to risk factors can also be diagnosed.

There are different methods of diagnosing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, the most common one is the Spirometric method, which helps to determine the severity of the disease. Other tests include chest x-ray, complete pulmonary function tests, high resolution computer tomography scan of the chest may show the distribution of disease throughout the lungs. Sometimes it is required to measure the arterial blood gas level which gives an indication of the amount of oxygen and carbon-di-oxide present in the blood.

Medications used to treat COPD include Bronchodilators such as Salbutamol, Terbutaline, which provide prompt relief from breathing difficulty. Salmeterol and Formaterol can be given as maintenance therapy. Anticholinergic drugs such as Ipratropium, Tiotropium, cause the smooth muscles to relax and provide quick relief from symptoms of COPD, However these drugs should be administered with precaution in patients with cardiac disease. Corticosteroids in the form of tablets or as inhalations are used to prevent acute onset of COPD symptoms, however they should not be used for long periods. It should be noted that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is not curable and by using these medications it can only be controlled and its progression can be prevented.

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