What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a catch-all term for a group of lung conditions. It happens when the lungs and airways become damaged and inflamed.This is a condition that causes breathing problems. It may go undetected in some people because the symptoms occur slowly over time, making everyday activities typically more difficult.
COPD can cause breathing conditions such as emphysema, which is damage to the air sacs in the lungs, or chronic bronchitis which is the long-term inflammation of the airways.
Signs and symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
If you have COPD you may find that symptoms get worse over time during daily routines. Symptoms might get worse in a quick and sudden fashion, otherwise known as a ‘flare-up’ or an ‘exacerbation’.
The common signs and symptoms of COPD are:
- breathlessness – this might increase slowly, and may only occur during exercise at first.
- a persist cough – this might be chesty and wet (phelgm) cough.
- reoccurring chest infections
The less common symptoms of COPD are:
- swollen ankles from a build-up of fluid (oedema)
- weight loss
- chest pain and coughing up blood
Note that symptoms can be indications of something more serious, such as asthma, bronchiectasis, anaemia and heart failure, therefore it is important to seek medical attention, especially if you are a smoker, or are over the age of 35. A simple breathing test can help determine if you have COPD.
so it is important to seek medical attention. If these are symptoms of COPD, it can be an indication that COPD has reached a more advanced stage.
What are the causes of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?
There are several factors that might give you an increased risk of COPD. But it is usually associated with long-term exposure of the lungs to harmful chemicals. Therefore, the common causes are:
- fumes and dusk at work
- air pollution
- genetics – (if you smoke and have a close relative with the condition you are more likely to develop it. This suggests some people’s genes might make them more vulnerable to the condition)
How is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) diagnosed?
To diagnose whether you have COPD, you doctor at OneWelbeck may examine your chest and listen to your breathing using a stethoscope. They may ask you about your symptoms, and whether you smoke or used to smoke. Your doctor may also calculate your body mass index (BMI) using your weight and height. They may also ask if you have a family history of lung problems.
Your doctor may carry out further tests such as:
- Chest X-ray
- Blood test
- an electrocardiogram (ECG)
- an echocardiogram
- an ultrasound scan of the heart
- a peak flow test
- a blood oxygen test
- a CT scan
- a phlegm sample – a sample of your phlegm (sputum)
- A Spirometry
How is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) treated?
While there’s currently no cure for COPD, the sooner treatment begins, the better chance you have of reducing your symptoms as well as the risk of any severe lung damage.
If you are diagnosed with COPD and smoke, the most important thing to do it to stop smoking. Other forms of treatment are inhalers and tablets, which might help make breathing easier. Tables such as Theophylline tablets, Mucolytics, Steroid tablets or Antibiotics may be prescribed.
Your doctor may also treat you with pulmonary rehabilitation, which is a a specialised programme of exercise and education. In some severe cases, surgery or a lung transplant may be an option. Your doctor at OneWelbeck will discuss the various treatment options with you.