Think about it. There are more than 65 million people around the world suffering from moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “How can this be true,” you ask? COPD isn’t just one disease; it is a diagnosis that comes along with multiple conditions that can severely damage your lungs. The meaning of the acronym (COPD) is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a term that is used to talk about a couple of medical conditions that is primarily characterized by breathlessness. It is one of the top causes of death among adults, yet most people don’t know anything about it.
Having a good understanding of COPD is the first step to treating or managing the illness. Here are proven facts guaranteed to help you understand this life-threatening disease that you could have without even knowing!
COPD is a combination of many respiratory conditions:
It may sound a bit scary, but it is true. When doctors diagnose someone with COPD, it means that the person has multiple conditions. The reason is that COPD is not just one disease. Some of the most common ailments with COPD patients are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Think about chronic bronchitis this way. It is damage to the bronchial tube. Irritation and swelling in the bronchial area of the lungs mark a typical case of this damage. Beyond that, there are tiny hairs called cilia which takes mucus up the tube so they can be coughed out. Loss of these hair causes chronic bronchitis. COPD patients experience shortness of breath. Even worse, they are unable to cough out mucus which makes their coughing more severe.
Imagine what happens when the lungs become stretched out beyond proportion to the extent that the airways become flabby and the air gets trapped inside the lungs. You may think someone has died here already, but that is Emphysema for you. Emphysema is the second most common ailment that is indicative of COPD. Patients with this ailment find it grueling to breathe out. The larger air sacs from the damage often result in less supply of oxygen to the blood which is equally dangerous.
Majority of COPD patients show symptoms of chronic bronchitis and emphysema at the same time.
COPD conditions are severe and prolonged breathing problems. Progressive damage to the lungs makes it difficult for COPD patients to take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Over time, severe struggle to breath can affect the quality of a patient’s life.
The resulting respiratory damages from COPD include:
Mucus clogging the airway passages
Air sacs in your lungs deteriorating
Narrowed and inflamed bronchial tubes
The symptoms you would notice include:
A persistent cough
A large amount of mucus
Shortness of breath
Increased number of respiratory infections
Swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs
Unexplained/ unintended weight loss
COPD worsens with time
The simple truth is that there is no cure for COPD at the moment. The disease is progressive, and it worsens with time, and the only way to reduce its impact on you is a unique combination of treatments.
Scientists are continually working on new treatments to weaken the progression of COPD, manage symptoms and reduce the pains that come with it. It may interest you to know, however, that maintaining a healthy lifestyle which entails physical exercise, constant medical check-up and a healthy routine of vegetable and other rich foods can significantly impact your quality of life of COPD patients. The effectiveness of a treatment depends on some factors, like the individual, the severity of diagnosed COPD, and the presence of other medical conditions.
A personalized regiment of exercise, nutrition, counseling, and other interventions
Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
Avoiding exposure to highly polluted environments
Millions of Americans are affected
Let’s face it, COPD was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2016, accounting for about 20 million deaths in the same year. Over 11 million people have COPD in the United States alone, which is frightening, but there are millions of others who may have the disease without knowing about it.
According to a study conducted in 2015, West Virginia with a whopping 12% of adults (aged 18 or older) diagnosed with COPD, had the highest prevalence of the disease. Utah had the lowest prevalence rate at only 3.8%.
Race and other demographic factors are also determinants of COPD. 11% of the diagnosed population are American Indians and Alaskan natives, while Hispanics are only at 3%.
COPD increases the risk of other health problems
Do not let this be you. Being diagnosed with COPD can increase the risk of being diagnosed with other respiratory diseases like lungs cancer. Beyond that, there might be complications from commonly cured health issues such as flu viruses, cold, and pneumonia.
Patients with COPD do not only find it difficult to breathe. They also have a higher chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, and pulmonary hypertension.
Medically, smoking is a significant cause of COPD. Although, scientists have also discovered that prolonged exposure to pollutants in the air such as fumes, dust, and airborne chemicals can cause COPD. Genetics is also a factor in whether or not a person may develop COPD. Studies have shown that some genes may influence COPD susceptibility, and there are other studies on their way in this area. The most important part that may interest you here is there that there are traces of family affinity in the occurrence of COPD although so much about this is not available, or unclear because the study of genetics is still evolving with the discovery of new technology.
In short, you can see that you can’t afford to be ignorant about COPD at this time. More importantly, the earlier you are diagnosed, the better your chances of controlling this debilitating disease. Spring to your feet and speak to your medical care professional without delay if you have any of these symptoms.
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