Lungs of a patient with COPD

What Is COPD?

According to the American Lung Association, nearly 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder(COPD) and millions more are living with it undiagnosed. Despite a large number of patients who are being treated, many Americans still do not know what COPD is or how it is treated. This article will go over COPD, the suspected causes, and possible treatments. 

What Is COPD? 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, commonly known as COPD, is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that over time, obstructs airflow to the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. There are two main types of COPD, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Many patients living with COPD have both types. 

What Are The Symptoms Of COPD? 

Symptoms of COPD may include: 

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness Of Breath
  • Excess Mucus Production 
  • Chest Tightness
  • Chest Pain 
  • Coughing Up Blood
  • Unintentional Weight Loss 
  • Swelling In The Legs

If you have any of these symptoms you should see your doctor. 

What Causes COPD? 

There are many factors that could cause COPD. The following are the most common causes of COPD: 

  1. Smoking: Smoking is easily the most common cause of COPD. This doesn’t just include cigarette smoke but also cigar and pipe smoke. 
  2. Secondhand Smoke: You don’t have to be a smoker to get COPD. If you are around secondhand smoke, especially in enclosed areas, you have an increased risk of developing COPD. 
  3. Pollution: If you work in an industry where you breathe in chemical fumes this could damage the lungs. 
  4. Untreated Asthma: If asthma is left untreated this can damage the lungs over time. 
  5. Genetics: People who have a rare deficiency called “AAT deficiency” are lacking a protein that is needed to protect the lungs. 

The majority of patients do not begin to show the symptoms of COPD until after the age of 40. 

COPD Complications

Patients with COPD often suffer from complications, including: 

  • Respiratory Infection: Any respiratory infection can increase the damage to the lungs of a patient with COPD. When the lungs aren’t functioning correctly, oxygen isn’t delivered throughout the body as it should be and the immune system suffers. This means that patients are more likely to catch a cold, the flu, or to get pneumonia. 
  • Cardiac Disease: Doctors don’t fully understand why but patients with COPD are more likely to have a heart attack. 
  • Depression: Anyone with a chronic disease has a higher risk of suffering from depression. 

Doctors Continue To Hunt For A Cure For COPD 

Clinical trials, which are medical research studies, are continually underway. Some COPD patients may qualify for these trials which gives them the opportunity to contribute to knowledge about the disease and to potentially become part of the team that finds a cure. 
To learn more about clinical trials, speak with your doctor or consider registering for the COPD Patient-Powered Research Network.