Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) encompasses the forms of inflammatory lung disorders that hinder the flow of air in the lungs. This primarily occurs when the airways in the lungs are constricted. The two kinds of lungs conditions that come under COPD are:
In this condition, the alveoli (air sacs) situated at the end of bronchioles (smallest air passages) are destroyed due to which the lungs become baggy and holey. This causes obstruction of air in the lungs.
- Chronic bronchitis
On the other hand, chronic bronchitis causes inflammation of bronchial tubes’ (airways) lining which is responsible for delivering air to and from the air sacs. Individuals suffering from bronchitis often produce high amounts of mucus.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often magnifies the risk of developing conditions like lung cancer and cardiovascular disorders. However, with proper medical assistance and self-management measures, COPD can be successfully treated, and patients can lead a healthy life.
Symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Usually, the COPD signs and symptoms aren’t detected until the condition has considerably affected the lungs. They can get severe if left untreated for a long time. Some of the common signs of COPD are as follows:
- Tightness in the chest
- Unexplained weight loss (in advanced stages)
- Shortness of breath
- Cyanosis (discoloration, i.e. lips and fingernail beds become bluish)
- Recurring episodes of respiratory infections
- Feeling muddled
- Increased heart rate
- Swelling of legs, feet, and ankles
If any of these signs stated above are observed, one should immediately consult a pulmonologist to evade any forms of complications. For individuals dealing with COPD, exacerbations can occur. Exacerbations are basically occasions during which the symptoms get worse and might take a few days to subside completely.
Causes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Currently, one of the biggest cause of COPD in the country is cigarette smoking. Most patients suffering from COPD are either smokers or have smoked in the past. Generally, individuals with this condition are aged above 40. Some other causes of COPD are as follows:
- Poorly ventilated homes which expose and circulate fumes and heat inside the house
- Persistent exposure to environments having high levels of chemicals, dust or pollution
- Passive smoking
- Cigar and pipe smoking
- Genetic factors which lead to the deficiency of alpha-1 antitrypsin, a type of protein
- Neonatal chronic lung disease (lung damage) that is caused due to premature delivery
Stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
The condition of COPD doesn’t have any specific diagnostic test. The diagnosis at this stage is purely based on what the pulmonologist gathers from the physical examination. Based on the analysis, the doctor can further recommend imaging tests, spirometry (a form of the non-invasive test) and arterial blood gas test. The damage caused by COPD can be curbed if the symptoms are identified early. To know more about the various stages of COPD, read further.
- Stage 0
In this stage, you aren’t affected by COPD yet, however, there are symptoms like coughing and sputum production on frequent occasions which amplifies its risk. You should consider this stage as a warning and quit smoking. Similarly, you should even adopt necessary lifestyle changes such as eating healthy food and working out daily. It is essential to note that once you contract COPD, it can’t be cured or reversed.
- Stage 1
The symptoms are same as Stage 0, but they aren’t noticeable which can make early diagnosis a bit tricky. Fortunately, if COPD is detected at this stage, then the doctors can effectively keep the symptoms under control. They might recommend the use of short-acting bronchodilator along with some medications and mandatory alterations in lifestyle.
- Stage 2
In this particular stage, the signs become increasingly visible. Along with chronic cough and sputum, you might also have to deal with other symptoms like shortness of breath. To manage COPD at this stage, the doctor will suggest you to use a long-acting bronchodilator.
- Stage 3
As compared to the previous stages, stage 3 is severe, and symptoms could crop up frequently. COPD at this stage will start to interfere with your routine life. Your pulmonologist will prescribe you with medications like corticosteroids and recommend oxygen therapy as well.
- Stage 4
This is the final stage of COPD and can prove to be life-threatening. You might need to undergo surgery to gain relief from the symptoms.