Short for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, COPD is an umbrella term that includes a group of progressive lung diseases. Around 30 million people in America suffer from COPD. Many of these people are not aware that they have the disease.
Although it is a severe disease that gets worse over time and affects one’s quality of life, timely diagnosis and the right treatment can greatly mitigate the patient’s suffering. Read on to find out more about this disease, and what symptoms indicate if you might be having it.
What Is COPD?
COPD is essentially a chronic lung condition that affects your breathing by blocking airways in the lungs. The two most common conditions that result in COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. If you are diagnosed with COPD, you have either one or both of these diseases.
The bronchial tubes carry air to and from the air sacs of the lungs. They are lined by cilia, which are tiny, hair-like structures responsible for moving mucus out of the lungs’ airways. Chronic bronchitis damages the cilia so they can’t do their job properly. This leads to a build-up of mucus in the bronchial tubes which causes coughing in the patient. Chronic bronchitis also irritates the bronchial tubes resulting in inflammation. This narrows them, further causing mucus build-up, and blocking the air passage.
The air sacs in the lungs absorb oxygen into the blood. Emphysema damages the walls of these air sacs, so they stretch out and lose their shape. They can also be destroyed completely, so instead of several tiny air sacs, you have fewer but bigger ones. All of this means that the lungs can not transfer oxygen into the blood as well, causing shortness of breath.