COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a disease of the lungs. An obstruction in the airflow of your body, resulting in breathlessness, fatigue etc., may be a sign of COPD. With the rise in global warming, the air being more and more polluted every day, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is becoming more common. It is affecting your lungs without you knowing it. Hence it is essential to understand the symptoms, causes and treatments etc.
If you further want to improve global warming and pollution, start planting trees. To know everything about COPD, stick to the article and read it till the end.
Types of COPD
Two primary types of COPD are as follows:
The alveoli which are the walls of the air sacs and the small airways, suffer damage. As a result of this damage, the sacs lose their shape and fail to recoil while exhaling. Additionally, the air traps in the lungs during the breathing cycle. This trapped air keeps the alveoli from functioning correctly, causing obstructive airway passage.
These changes eventually result in the reduced exchange of gases that are hyperinflated. It makes breathing difficult, making the body unable to breathe out carbon dioxide.
It is the inflammation of the linings of the airway which leads to swelling and the formation of large mucus. It makes breathing challenging.
Symptoms of COPD
Symptoms of COPD are as follows:
- Breathlessness, especially after a workout or physical exercise.
- Recurrence of cough, which is mild.
- Mucus throw-up with the cough.
- The urge to clear your throat occasionally, just after when you wake up.
- Noisy exhalation or sounds while breathing, also known as wheezing.
- Tightness and firmness in the chest area.
- Experiencing frequent flu and cold
- Fingernails turning blue
- Severe weight loss (in later stages)
- Frequent weakness and fatigue
- Swelling in ankles, feet and legs
Causes and Risk Factors of COPD
If you have exposure to smoke, especially tobacco smoke, you are at risk of COPD. It is a significant risk factor if you smoke or constantly inhale second-hand (passive) smoke. It means that if you are always with a person who smokes, the air you are inhaling is polluted. Hence, you are also exposed to and inhaling second-hand smoke.
It is a chronic disease in itself. It results in the breathlessness of a person, as the airways are blocked. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease of the air tract. Asthma and smoking is a deadly combination for COPD.
3. Workplace Environment
The environment where you work should be clean and free of dust and pollution. However, if your workplace is prone to dust, fumes and vapours, you are at significant risk of developing COPD. For example, respiratory tract inflammation chances increase if you work in a coal mine or near a factory. As a result, you might suffer from COPD.
4. Burning Fuel
The smoke you expose yourself to with fuel-burning in your house for cooking food can be dangerous. And this kind of smoke is very harmful. It causes inflammation in the airway, leading to COPD. It is seen usually in developing countries.
A rare genetic disorder of alpha one antitrypsin deficiency is the primary cause of COPD in many cases. Along with it, the study talks about the other genetic factor to consider in COPD.
Complications of COPD
Some complications of COPD are listed below:
People suffering from COPD develop significant heart problems. The mechanism behind this is still under research. But it is a considerable complication for people suffering from heart problems. The smoke chokes the arteries and prevents proper blood circulation. As a result, it puts pressure on your heart and may lead to heart issues like stroke.
Respiratory Tract Infections
COPD is a disease of inflammation in the respiratory tract. The airway in the human body is inflamed, making it difficult for a person to breathe. As a result, people suffering from COPD are easily susceptible to catching a cold, cough, and pneumonia.
Inflammation is the leading cause of cancer and tumour development. Smoke acts as a free radical that causes oxidative stress and inflammation.
COPD is an inflammation of the lungs and airway tract. Therefore, it is a significant cause of lung cancer in the later stages of life.
High Blood Pressure
COPD causes high blood pressure in the arteries. These arteries bring blood and oxygen to the lungs. Therefore, any pressure in the arteries or interference in the process of blood and oxygen supply may cause pulmonary hypertension.
Inability to breathe correctly closes doors for many physical activities. The inability to indulge in physical activities may develop depression symptoms in many people.
Stages of COPD
There are four stages of COPD, which are as follows:
It is the early stage when the disease crawls into your body. You might not even know the occurrence of any such illness. But, by the time its symptoms start to show, the disease may entirely damage your lungs. The symptoms are occasional at this stage. However, not paying close attention to your breathing and airway tract can lead to COPD development without you realising it.
It is the moderate stage. You may feel that the airflow is limited, and there is restriction. The symptoms are regular and not occasional. The common occurrence of symptoms starts to affect your daily life. It is usually the stage in which people get diagnosed with the disease.
It is the severe stage, and the symptoms are regular and recurrent. These symptoms make daily life difficult. As a result, you may fail to do daily chores, and your strength reduces.
Staying active is a challenge. Therefore, it is that stage where people start developing stress symptoms.
It is the end/ final stage or the very severe stage where you experience the inability to work. Quality of life reduces, and it is exceptionally low. Frequent flares and exacerbations are regular, and any of these can be fatal.
Diagnosis of COPD
There is no single test for COPD. Your doctor may diagnose it in 3 ways:
- Checking the symptoms
- Performing a physical examination (with a stethoscope)
- By diagnostic test results
Examination and Tests of COPD:
- An imaging test of the chest area like an X-Ray or CT Scan will give a more detailed look into the lungs, blood vessels and heart.
- Spirometry is a non-invasive test to assess lung function. You have to take a deep breath and blow it into a tube connected to the spirometer for this test. Then the spirometer linked at the bottom of it will assess and give results.
- An arterial blood gas test requires taking the blood sample from the artery. Oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other vital levels are assessed and seen in this blood sample.
Prevention of COPD
- You can easily prevent COPD by not smoking or keeping yourself away from any smoke. You have to stop smoking or ask your friend who constantly smokes to stop smoking.
- Ensuring that your workplace is safe is another way of prevention.
- If you live in a polluted city and are being affected due to high pollution and smog levels, you should try planting trees. Join an NGO working for the environment, do your bit to save the earth.
Natural Ways to Treat and Prevent COPD
1. Consume a Well-Balanced Diet
Consume fewer highly processed meals high in calories and sodium but low in nutrition.
Although there is no special diet for COPD, a nutritious diet is essential for general health. In addition, these diets will better equip you to avoid complications and other health issues if you have strong immunity.
Choose a selection of healthy meals from the following categories:
- Also, keep the salt to a minimum. It causes the body to retain water, making breathing difficult.
- Drink a lot of water. Drinking at least 6-8 glasses of water or non-caffeinated drinks may keep the Mucus thinner and make coughing up mucous simpler.
- You should avoid caffeinated beverages because they can interact with medication.
- Consult your doctor if you have heart problems and need to drink less.
2. Eating Habits
A full stomach restricts the expansion of your lungs, leaving you short of breath. If this happens to you, try the following remedies:
- Clear your airways about an hour before a meal.
- Take smaller chunks and chew them thoroughly before swallowing.
- Substitute five or six smaller meals for three larger meals every day.
- Save your fluids until the end of the meal, so you don’t feel as full.
3. Weight Management
It is critical to maintaining a healthy weight. When you have COPD, you require more energy to breathe. Thus you may need to consume more calories. However, your lungs and heart may have to work more if you’re overweight. Even basic bodily upkeep might be challenging if you’re underweight or feeble. In addition, COPD impairs your immune system and reduces your capacity to fight infection in general.
4. Lifestyle Changes
COPD is a chronic condition that you must manage for the rest of your life. That entails listening to your doctor’s instructions and keeping healthy living practices. Since your lungs are fragile, you should avoid anything that might put them under stress or provoke a flare-up.
Here’s a list of items to think about while making lifestyle changes.
5. Avoid Smoking
Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programmes if you’re having problems quitting. You should also avoid passive smoking, chemical fumes, air pollution, and dust.
A little physical activity every day can help you stay in shape. In addition, it can help you manage weight and fight COPD. Consult your doctor to determine how much exercise is appropriate for you.
7. Treat Other Conditions
If you have other chronic conditions in addition to COPD, you should take care of them as well. It is especially relevant in the case of diabetes and heart disease.
8. Keep the House in Order
Clear the clutter and organise your home. Other household duties need less energy. Get help with everyday responsibilities if you have advanced COPD.
Be Ready for a Flare-Up
- Carry your emergency contact information with you at all times and have it posted on your refrigerator.
- Include the names and dosages of any drugs you’re taking.
- Make a list of emergency numbers on your phone.
Look for Help
It might be reassuring to speak with others who understand. Joining a support group is a good idea. The COPD Foundation has compiled a comprehensive list of organisations and resources for COPD sufferers.
Medical Treatment of COPD
There is no proven cure for COPD. It is a degenerative disorder. However, given below are some standard treatment methods.
If the oxygen level in your body is too low, you should receive oxygen aid from outside. You can get oxygen either in the form of a mask or a nasal cannula to help you breathe better. However, it is recommended if you face breathing issues frequently. In addition, you can carry a portable oxygen unit to avoid severe emergencies.
Severe cases or instances where the harm is intense may require surgical interventions. It is advised only in the case of severe emphysema or when there is no other option left. Severe emphysema means all other treatments have failed.
Bullectomy is a type of surgery where the surgeon removes large, inflated, abnormal air sacks. These air sacks did not allow the carbon dioxide to be exhaled from the body as they could not contract due to their ill-shaped structure.
Lung Volume Reduction
Lung volume reduction is when the surgeons remove the damaged part of the upper lung tissue. It is effective in improving breathing, but it is a risky procedure.
Lung transplantation is an option in some cases where a patient finds a matching donor.
The Bottom Line
COPD is an incurable disease. Proper medications and early diagnosis can control it. In addition, an active lifestyle and a clean environment can cure the disease to a greater extent. Being positive is the key, and may you live longer with the disease suppressed. Engage yourself in activities and stay happy.