Did you know that globally, it is believed that about 65 million people have varying levels of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)? In the United States alone, an estimated 16 million adults have been diagnosed with the disease. Here’s all you need to know about COPD, including its causes, types, symptoms, and stages.
What is COPD?
COPD, which means chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a long-term lung ailment that affects breathing. Primarily, COPD is caused by smoking; however, you don’t necessarily need to be a smoker to have it. If left untreated, COPD can build other diseases, including respiratory infections and heart problems.
Types of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
There are three main types of COPD namely:
Emphysema is an obstructive and restrictive pulmonary disease that damages the lungs’ air sacs (alveoli). This damage kills the walls inside the alveoli, causing them to combine into one huge air sac.
The result of this is difficulty in absorbing oxygen and reduced oxygen in the blood. Air also gets trapped in the lungs which causes shortness of breath.
2. Chronic Bronchitis
Prolonged coughing, shortness of breath, and mucus that lingers for at least three months for two years in a row mean you have chronic bronchitis.
When one develops chronic bronchitis, you lose your cilia as well as your ability to get rid of mucus. This causes more cough and even more stagnant phlegm in the system.
3. Refractory Asthma
This type of COPD results in persistent asthma symptoms, attacks, or low lung function that do not respond to standard asthma medications.
Common Causes Of COPD
Different things may cause COPD. The primary causes are:
1. Cigarette smoke
This is essentially the most prominent cause of COPD. You can get it when you inhale smoke from tobacco products like cigars.
2. Secondhand smoke
Even if you don’t smoke but live with someone who regularly engages in the habit, you are at risk of developing COPD.
3. Fumes and Pollution
Air pollution is another COPD causative factor. Also, you may develop COPD if you work or live where you are constantly exposed to chemical fumes, dust, or toxic substances.
Although rare, some people have a defect in their DNA. This defect is called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency ( AAT deficiency). With this defect, your lungs don’t have enough protein to protect them from damage, and this can lead to severe COPD.
Asthma, if not treated, can lead to lung damage and COPD over time.
Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
There are three primary symptoms of COPD – shortness of breath, a recurring cough, and thick, often colored mucus.
Most people who have COPD may not know, especially during its mild stage. At this point, you may only experience intermittent coughing and shortness of breath which you may chalk up as irrelevant.
But as the condition progresses, symptoms will worsen and get to levels where you will find it very hard to breathe. You may also feel a wheeziness and tightness in the chest.
Some Early Symptoms
These symptoms are easy to miss or mistake for a cold. They include:
- Intermittent shortness of breath, especially after exercise
- A mild cough that is always going and returning
- An inexplicable need to clear your throat often, especially once you wake in the morning
Other Worsening Symptoms
With time, symptoms could progress and become harder to ignore. This could include:
- Shortness of breath, even after mild exercises like climbing a flight of stairs or gardening
- Wheezing and chronic cough
- Chest tightness
- Regular colds or flu
- Swelling of the feet, ankles, or legs
- Having colored fingernails
- Weight loss
Stages Of COPD
COPD is categorized into four stages, ranging from low to severe levels.
Stage I (Early Stage/Mild COPD)
When COPD starts to build up, you will likely miss the signs. This is because the disease develops slowly, sometimes taking years to become noticeable. By then, though, it may have already caused significant damage to the lungs.
Stage II (Moderate Stage COPD)
As the condition advances, the airflow gets limited. By now, the symptoms are getting noticeable and may start to affect the daily routine. For instance, you might find yourself having to stop every few minutes to catch your breath while walking.
You may also have trouble sleeping, extreme tiredness, and poor mental health. During this stage, most people visit a lung specialist doctor and learn that they have the disease.
Stage III (Severe Stage COPD)
During stage 3, the disease begins to have drastic effects on one’s life. For example, you may not have the strength to work or do chores, and you may also lose interest in many activities.
At this stage, all the symptoms in previous stages will worsen. You might even get breathless doing things as simple as dressing and undressing. However, with treatment and lifestyle changes, you can manage your challenges and be more active.
Stage IV (End-Stage COPD)
Stage 4 is the final stage of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This stage could lead to high blood pressure, hypertension, or lung and heart failure. This is a very critical stage of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; that’s why it is called the end-stage.
If you have COPD or other lung issues, there are several treatment options and lifestyle changes available to help you live healthier. Please talk to us today to help you get started on your road to buoyant health.