Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is a health condition that negatively affects your lungs over time. Usually, it starts with mild symptoms and after that gets worse. Not treating this disease may lead to complications (such as heart problems, respiratory infections, and others) and severe symptoms.


Commonly, people with COPD have the most common of these lung progressive diseases including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Additionally, approximately 30 million people suffer from COPD in the United States.

A medical condition that slowly destroys your air sacs in the lungs is called Emphysema. It also interferes with outward airflow. Narrowing and inflammation of the bronchial tubes in which mucus builds up is called bronchitis.


You may experience intermittent shortness of breath and coughing in the mild stage. However, symptoms become more constant and may lead to severe breathing problems. In addition, you may also notice tightness in the chest, excess sputum production, wheezing, and others.

Early Symptoms

Check below some early symptoms of COPD:

  • Need to clear your throat frequently
  • Recurrent cough
  • Trouble breathing, especially after physical activity

It is advised to avoid stairs and physical activities in case you notice any of them.

Worsening Symptoms

As the lungs become more damaged, as harder is to ignore the symptoms. Check below some examples:

  • Lack of energy
  • Frequent flu, cold, or other respiratory infections
  • Chronic cough
  • Noisy breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, or legs
  • Fatigue

You are at higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms if you are smoking or regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.


Longer use of tobacco smoking increases the risks of COPD. However, your risk of developing COPD is greater if you experience asthma and smoke. Check below other causes:

  • In case you are exposed to chemicals and fumes in the workplace may also increase the risk of COPD.
  • In some cases, it may be a genetic predisposition to develop COPD. About 5% of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have a protein deficiency called alpha-1-antitrypsin. Furthermore, this deficiency may also negatively affect your liver.

Diagnosing COPD

Physicians usually perform several tests to diagnose this lung condition. However, it is important to tell your doctor if:

  • Smoke or smoked in the past
  • Exposed to lung irritants on the job
  • Exposed to regular secondhand smoke
  • Family history of COPD
  • You experience asthma or other respiratory disease
  • If you administer prescription or nonprescription medications


Healthcare providers usually use a stethoscope to listen to your lungs while breathing. In addition, to get a complete picture, your physician may order some tests. For example:

  • Imaging tests including CT or X-ray scans.
  • A noninvasive test to assess lung function is called Spirometry.
  • Arterial blood gas test. It means that a doctor will take a blood sample from a blood vessel to measure carbon dioxide, blood oxygen, and others.

Tests listed above help to identify if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or other conditions including asthma, restrictive lung disease, heart failure, or others.


Fortunately, different treatment methods are available. Treating COPD can help to lessen symptoms, prevent complications, and reduce the progression of the disease. Healthcare professionals that you should consult are pulmonologists and physical, and respiratory therapists.

Oxygen Therapy

You can receive additional oxygen through a mask if your blood oxygen is too low.


If you experience severe COPD, your physician may recommend surgery. This procedure is usually used when other treatments fail. Bullectomy is one type of surgery and it is used to remove abnormal air spaces (bullae) from the lungs.

Lung volume reduction is another surgery that is used to remove damaged upper lung tissue, which is an effective procedure to improve breathing.

One method that can cure COPD is lung transplantation but it has many risks.

Furthermore, endobronchial valves (EBV) are used in people with severe emphysema. This treatment option helps to improve the efficiency of airflow.

Lifestyle Changes

The following lifestyle changes are advised because they can help to lessen the symptoms and help in the treatment of COPD. Examples include:

  • Quit smoking and whenever possible avoid passive smoke
  • Adopt a healthy diet
  • Consult with your healthcare professional about how much exercise is safe for you


Usually, it needs several trials and errors until you find the best medicine and dosage for you. However, see below some medicines used in the COPD treatment. Examples include:

Inhaled Bronchodilators

This medicine comes as an inhaler or nebulizer and it helps to loosen tight muscles in your airways. There are short-acting bronchodilators that last from 4 to 6 hours and patients use them when needed only. However, long-acting versions can be used every day and they last roughly 12 hours.


These medicines are available in pill and inhaler form. These drugs are usually used in combination with long-acting bronchodilators.

Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors

A tablet that helps to relax the airways and lessen inflammation. Healthcare providers commonly prescribe these medicines for severe COPD with chronic bronchitis.


This medicine is available in pill form and is used to lessen tightness and shortness of breath.

Antibiotics and Antivirals

Physicians may prescribe these types of medications if you experience respiratory infections.


Your doctor may prescribe a yearly flu vaccine. It may help to decrease the risk of other respiratory infections.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods can help in the treatment of COPD?

Dairy, grains, vegetables, protein, and others. Consult with your healthcare professional for more details.

Is there a connection between COPD and lung cancer?

These diseases are linked in several ways. As per a study between 40 and 70 percent of people with lung cancer also experience COPD. Therefore, COPD is a risk factor for lung cancer. However, if you experience chronic obstructive pulmonary disease it does not mean that you will get lung cancer.

What are the four stages of COPD?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this lung disease. COPD can be managed by using medicines, therapies, and others. In case you ignore this condition, it may progress and lead to complications. Check below the four stages of COPD:

  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Severe
  • Very severe

Talk with a healthcare professional for more details.

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