COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It refers to two long-term lung diseases:
- Chronic bronchitis, in which the mucus membranes in the bronchial passages are permanently inflamed;
- Emphysema, which gradually damages the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, making patients progressively more short of breath.
COPD is a progressive condition. ‘Progressive’ means that the disease gets worse over time. Medication can alleviate the symptoms of COPD or cause the disease to progress less rapidly.
Symptoms and causes of COPD
COPD causes permanent damage to the lungs. Symptoms include:
- Chest tightness;
- Fatigue, lack of energy;
- Shortage of breath;
- Productive cough.
COPD usually affects people over the age of 40. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Being around other smokers also plays a role in an individual developing COPD. COPD can also be caused by other lung diseases such as asthma. In rare cases, genes may play a role in COPD. Other causes of COPD include long-term exposure to irritants such as chemicals, dust, air pollution or asbestos.
COPD is typically treated with bronchodilators (inhalers) and anti-inflammatory medication. These treatments reduce inflammation in the lungs and make it easier to breathe. Antibiotics, expectorants and anti-allergy medicines are also used to treat COPD.