Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a treatable respiratory disease that affects the lungs. It is characterized by persistent shortness of breath and fatigue. Early stages of COPD exhibit shortness of breath in patients when they exercise. As it progresses, it becomes hard to breathe out or even breathe in. 

Types of COPD 

There are two types of COPD; obstructive bronchiolitis and emphysema. A patient can have either of these two conditions or in some isolated cases, experience both them. 

Obstructive Bronchiolitis 

This condition is defined by chronic inflammation and swelling of airways in the lungs, making them abnormally small. Inflammation in this tubular organ results in restricted breathing as it interferes with airflow in and out of the lungs. 

Emphysema 

The lungs comprise millions of alveoli. To facilitate breathing, these alveoli expand and contract enabled by their elastic nature. In Emphysema, this elastic feature in the alveoli is damaged thus requiring extra effort for them to expand and contract. 

These two conditions both restrict the movement of air in and out of the lungs, demanding a lot of effort just to nourish the body with enough oxygen. 

Symptoms 

– Common symptoms of COPD include: 
• Shortness of breath while involved in activities 
• Fatigue 
• Coughing 
• Wheezing 
• Unending mucus 

Causes and Risk Factors 

The major cause of COPD is tobacco smoke, and its prevalence relates directly to the widespread culture of tobacco smoking. Other factors that will put you at risk of getting COPD or making it worse include: 
 
• Prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants such as biomass fuels used as energy in poorly ventilated homes. 
• Industrial exposure to chemical fumes, organic and inorganic dust. 
• Outdoor air pollutants are a factor that most people assume, but inhaled particles have a small effect. 
• The genetic component passed down from parents. If your parents had COPD, then you are at high risk of getting it. 
• Respiratory problems or low birth weight during childhood that interfere with lung development. 
• An underlying condition such as asthma or chronic bronchitis. 
 
COPD is treatable with a combination of pulmonary rehabilitation, anti-inflammatory drugs, bronchodilators, and ICS. These drugs reduce symptoms, stabilize the functions of the lung, and improve quality of life. However, the damage to the lungs is irreversible. COPD is chronic, therefore, it is a lifelong condition that a patient has to learn to manage it and continue to lead a fulfilling life. 
 
Glossary 
Pulmonary – Relating to lungs 
Bronchiolitis – inflammation in the lungs 
ICS – Inhaled Corticosteroids 
Alveolus (singular)- air sac organ in the lungs 

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