COPD is a general term for a wide range of progressive lung diseases. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis can both cause COPD. A diagnosis of COPD indicates that you may have one of these lung-damaging diseases or symptoms of both. COPD can gradually progress, making it harder to breathe over time.
Chronic bronchitis irritates your bronchial tubes, which help carry air to and from the lungs. As a part of response to this, the tubes swell up and mucus accumulates along the lining. The accumulation of this mucus narrows the opening of the tube, making it hard to get air into and out of the lungs.
Small, hair-like structures on the inside of the bronchial tubes known as cilia normally move the mucus out of the airways. However, the irritation from chronic bronchitis and smoking damages them. Mucus can’t be cleared by the damaged cilia.
Emphyseme refers to the breakdown of the walls of the tiny air sacs at the end of the bronchial tubes, at the base of the lung. The alveoli or the air sacs plays an important role in transferring oxygen into the blood and carbon dioxide out. The damage that emphysema causes destroys the walls of the air sacs, making it quite hard to get a full breath.
COPD and asthma are similar in many ways, including similar symptoms including blocked airflow and shortness of breath. However, COPD is a chronic disorder and highly progressive. Asthma is often triggered by allergens. The main cause of COPD is smoking.
Asthmatics don’t automatically develop COPD. COPD patients don’t always have asthma. However, it is possible to simultaneously have both of these respiratory conditions. If you have both, you will need treatment for both.
Smoking is the main cause of COPD. However, all smokers don’t have the disease. You may be at an increased risk of developing the disease if:
Almost 90% of COPD cases are caused by smoking tobacco. Other causes of the disease include:
Tobacco smoke causes airway irritation, inflammation of the airways, causing their narrowing. Smoke also results in damage to the cilia so that they can’t perform their job of removing the mucus and trapped particles from the airways.
AAT deficiency is a rare, inherited disorder that can cause emphysema. AAT is an enzyme that helps safeguard the lungs from the damaging effects of inflammation. Having AAT deficiency doesn’t produce an adequate amount of alpha-1 antitrypsin. Your lungs are more susceptible to developing damage from exposure to irritating agents like dust and smoke. It is impossible to distinguish COPD associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency from normal COPD. Therefore, all people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should get screened alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency with a blood test.
Following are some signs and symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:
If you have signs and symptoms of COPD, you should not delay seeking care. Consult the best pulmonologists in Indore at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore for further assistance. You must not wait for your symptoms to get so severe that you need emergency medical care. If you experience symptoms early, your must seek prompt care for COPD.
You must talk to your healthcare provider on the phone within twenty hours if you experience these changes in your health:
Shortness of breath that has become worse or occurs more often
Other signs and symptoms of COPD that should prompt a call to your healthcare provider regarding COPD include:
To evaluate your lungs and overall health condition, your doctor will take your medical history, perform a complete physical examination and order some investigations, such as breathing tests.
To detect diseases like COPD, your provider will ask questions like:
To facilitate with the diagnosis, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam that includes:
Healthcare providers employ a simple test known as spirometry to check how well your lungs function. For this test, you blow air into a tube that is linked to a machine. This lung function test is used to measure the amount of air you can breathe out and how fast you can do it.
COPD can worsen gradually. How fast it progresses from mild to severe varies from person to person.
The first sign of COPD is often feeling out of breath with light exercises, like walking up stairs. Many people confuse this symptom for being unfit or getting old. Another sign is a phlegmy cough (a cough with mucus) that’s often particularly troublesome in the morning.
Shortness of breath is seen to be more evident in case of advanced COPD. Symptoms of exacerbations of COPD include increased phlegm, discoloration of phlegm, more shortness of breath and are commonly seen in higher stages of COPD. Your risk of getting lung infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia also increases.
When COPD becomes severe, almost everything you do can cause shortness of breath. This limits your mobility. You may need supplemental oxygen from a portable tank.
Treatment for COPD is targeted towards relieving symptoms, like breathing problems and coughing, and avoiding respiratory infections. Your provider may recommend:
The best way to avoid developing COPD is by avoiding smoking at all costs. If you are a smoker and you want to quit, you can join a smoking cessation program. Also, avoid any environment that has poor air quality — air that has particles like dust, smoke, gases and fumes.
COPD patients have difficulty freeing their lungs of dust, dust and other pollutants in the air. This increases their risk for developing lung infections that may cause further lung damage.
Therefore, it is vital to watch for signs of infection and follow these tips to prevent developing infections. You might not be able to avoid infections entirely, but these tips will help you prevent infections as much as possible.
If you have any of these symptoms, consult a pulmonologist for further evaluation.
Following are some ways you can follow to help prevent infections:
You must frequently wash your hands with warm water and soap, especially before eating, preparing food, and taking medications or breathing treatments. You must thoroughly wash your hands after using the bathroom, sneezing or coughing, touching soiled clothes or linens, after you've been to a social gathering, or after you've been around someone with a cold or the flu. It is also a good idea to carry waterless hand sanitizers with you so that you can use those whenever required.
If your visitors are suffering from symptoms of a flu, ask them not to visit you until they feel better.
Don’t let others use your medical equipment, including metered-dose inhaler (MDI), your oxygen cannula, nebulizer tubing, MDI spacer, and mouthpiece.
Keep your breathing equipment clean.
Try consuming a balanced diet. Good nutrition is vital to help the body fight against infections. You must consume foods from all food groups. Some people find eating fewer carbohydrates and more fats helps them breathe better. This is because some amount of carbon dioxide is generated during the metabolism of food. You must talk to a certified dietitian to help you make smart food choices.
Drink plenty of fluids. You must aim to consume at least 6-8 ounce glasses of fluids every day. Water, sport drinks, and juices are the best for you.
For every person, COPD progresses at a different rate. After it has progressed, the lung damage caused by it can’t be reversed. However, if you follow a healthy lifestyle and seek treatment as early as possible, you can manage your symptoms and feel much better.
Life expectancy for COPD patients varies from person to person. It depends on a number of factors including how early your provider detects the disease, your overall health condition (including associated diseases you might have), and how well you manage your treatment. Some patients live quite a long time post-diagnosis. On the other hand, others, with more severe disease, don’t fare that well.
You must seek an appointment with your healthcare provider if you experience any of the warning signs of an infection. You must also talk to your healthcare provider if you have symptoms that concern you.
Following are some measures you can take to make breathing easier and slow the progression of the disease:
The lungs of COPD patients are sensitive to certain substances in the atmosphere, including exhaust fumes, strong perfumes, paint/varnish, cigarette smoke, cleaning products, pollen, dust, pet dander and air pollution. Extreme hot or cold weather conditions can also cause lung irritation.
You can avoid some of these irritants by:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) causes irreversible lung damage. Even if the damage can’t be reversed, there are ways you can follow to manage symptoms. If you take the necessary steps to support your lung capacity and fight lung irritation, breathing will be easier for you. Early treatment of COPD is essential to better chances of recovery.
The Department of Pulmonary Medicine at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore offers comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic care for a diverse range of pulmonological diseases. Our services include endoscopic ultrasound, endo bronchial ultrasound, endobronchial brachytherapy, innovative therapeutic techniques, bronchial thermoplasty and surgical interventions like video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery and lung volume reduction. Our staff comprises highly qualified pulmonologists who deliver optimum treatment for lung diseases supported by state-of-the-art technology and modern equipment.
We follow an evidence-based approach during all our services to ensure excellent outcomes matching international standards. Apart from having a fully-equipped Bronchoscopy suite with C-arm facilities, we house a state-of-the-art PFT machine.