Friday, 20 March 2015

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


COPD
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – Group of Lung Diseases

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD is referred to a group lung diseases which tend to block the airflow making the breathing difficult. It is the name given for a collection of lung ailments which include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. People suffering from COPD have breathing problems which is due to the narrowing of their airways known as airflow obstruction. The symptoms include, increasing breathlessness while they are active, frequent chest infection, persistent cough with phlegm and the main cause of this ailment is smoking.

The chances of developing this disease increases on smoking and the length of smoking period. Smoking tends to cause irritation and inflames the lungs which results in scarring and over a period of time, the inflammation leads to permanent changes in the lungs. The walls of the airways tend to get thicken with the development of more mucus. The delicate walls of the air sacs in the lungs get damaged causing emphysema with the lungs losing their normal elasticity while the smaller airways become scarred and narrowed. All these changes result in the symptoms of breathlessness, cough and phlegm which are associated with this disease. There are other cases of this disease which is due to dust, air pollution, fumes and genetic disorders though they are quite rare.

Common Conditions - COPD

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are considered the two most common conditions which are responsible for COPD. Chronic bronchitis is the inflammation of the lining of bronchial tubes that carries air to and from the lungs and emphysema takes place when the air sacs or alveoli towards the end of the smallest air passage, bronchioles, in the lungs tends to get destroyed gradually. Damage to the lungs due to COPD cannot be changed or reversed though treatment could be helpful in controlling symptoms which could reduce further damage. The symptom of this disease does not often show up till the damage has occurred to the lungs which usually worsen over a period of time. In the case of chronic bronchitis, the main symptom is cough which one tends to have at least three months in a year for two consecutive years while the other signs and symptoms may include:
  • Shortness of breath which is more pronounced during physical activities
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • The need to clear the throat first thing in the morning due to excess mucus in the lungs
  • A chronic cough which produces sputum which may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
  • Lack of energy
  • Change in colour of blueness of the lips or fingernail beds
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Unintended loss of weight which could occur at a later stage
Test & Treatment 

The following test are done for those suffering from COPD which include –

Pulmonary function test – Spirometry being the most common lung function test wherein at the time of this test the person needs to blow into a large tube which is connected to a spirometer and the machine measures how much air the lungs can hold and how fast one can blow out the air from the lungs. It can detect the disease much prior to the symptoms of the ailment and can also be used to track the progress of the disease as well as monitor on the treatment.

Chest X-ray can portray emphysema which is one of the main causes of COPD and can also identify other lung problems or heart failure if any.

CT scan of the lungs could help in detecting emphysema and determine if one would need a surgery for the ailment and could also be used to check for lung cancer which is also common among individuals suffering from COPD.

Arterial blood gas analysis is a blood rest which measures how well the lungs are bringing oxygen in the blood and leaving carbon dioxide.

Medication

For all stage of disease, effective therapy available could control the symptoms and reduce the risk of any complications and help in leading an active life. The essential step in the case of COPD is to quit smoking and reduce the chances of getting worse. Doctors may recommend several types of medication to treat the symptoms of COPD which could be taken on regular basis or as the need arises. There are medications which come in the form of inhaler which tends to relax the muscles around the airways and also relieves cough and shortness of breath, making breathing easier.

Inhaled medications could reduce airway inflammation which could help in prevention of exacerbations. Some side effect could include oral infections, bruising and hoarseness. Oral steroids is given to those with moderate or severe acute exacerbation which prevents further worsening of the disease though these medication could tend to have serious side effect like weight gain, diabetes, cataracts, osteoporosis as well as an increased risk of infection. Antibiotic is also given which fights acute exacerbations though it is not clear whether it is due to its antibiotic effect or the anti-inflammatory properties. Surgery is also another option for some people suffering from COPD.

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