Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term for a variety of lung conditions that disrupt with normal breathing. The common conditions include emphysema, chronic asthma and chronic bronchitis. These conditions can arise separately or at the same time. The usual indications include chronic cough, shortness of breath and increased sputum production. Those who smoke or previously smoked are at higher risk.
There is no cure for COPD and the impaired airways no longer regenerate. Nevertheless, there are measures that can slow down the progression of the disease, improve the symptoms and lead a longer life.
Indications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Shortness of breath after exertion
- Breathlessness even while at rest in severe cases
- Coughing up sputum
- Cyanosis or bluish-tinged skin due to lack of oxygen
- Increased risk for chest infections
How does it affect the lung function?
An individual with emphysema has impaired bronchi and alveoli. The weakened and ruptured air sac could not effectively move oxygen from the air to the blood. As the disease progresses and further damages the air sacs, the individual becomes breathless even while at rest.
As for bronchitis, it involves inflammation of the bronchi. The lungs usually produce small amount of fluid but if chronic bronchitis is present, there is overproduction which results to frequent and productive coughing.
Generally, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease develops in a slow manner that the individual does not realize that his/her ability to breathe is becoming impaired. The damage to the lungs might already by significant before the symptoms are severe to be noticed.
Even today, there is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the impaired lung tissue will not repair itself. Nevertheless, there are measures that can slow down the progression of the disease and improve the symptoms.
- Bronchodilators – these medications work by opening the airways and ideally administered using an inhaler.
- Corticosteroids – these medications work by reducing the inflammation and swelling of the lung tissues.
- Expectorants – these medications work by making the phlegm loose to make it easier to cough up
- Oxygen therapy – this is usually recommended for individuals with chronic lung disease who have low levels of blood oxygen. Oxygen also helps restore the blood oxygen levels to normal and minimizing the damage to the vital organs.
- Management of chest infections – these infections are managed using antibiotics
- Pulmonary rehabilitation