COPD: What it is and how you can prevent it

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a condition that occurs when there is a chronic inflammation in the lungs that causes your airflow to be obstructed. It is oftentimes a result of chronic bronchitis (persistent inflammation of the bronchial tubes that deliver air to the lungs), or emphysema (destruction of the air sacs or alveoli).

People with COPD may experience one or more of these signs and symptoms:

  • Chronic and productive cough
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Cyanosis (bluish lips and fingernails due to lack of oxygen)
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Other respiratory illnesses, such as lung infections
  • Throat obstructed with sputum, especially when waking up in the morning

People with emphysema and chronic bronchitis, those who smoke, and those with asthma who smoke are at highest risk of COPD. Furthermore, older age, genetic predisposition, and exposure to second hand smoke and workplace fume may all contribute to the disease.

In areas where air quality is low, people may also be exposed to irritants that may cause COPD-causing lung diseases. Car pollution is considered among the primary culprit for this disease. Unfortunately, many car makers ignore their responsibility in creating healthier and more lung-friendly cars. In fact, many people are now filing a Volkswagen emissions fraud lawsuit after learning that the German car company installed software in some of its newer cars to deceive standard emissions tests.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, speak with your doctor right away for an accurate COPD diagnosis. When left undiagnosed and untreated, this condition may lead to even more serious lung complications, such as lung cancer, lung infections, heart disorders, depression and pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs).

Even though COPD sounds like a very serious disease, this lung condition is completely manageable. Medications such as steroids, antibiotics, and bronchodilators are usually recommended to relieve its symptoms. Lung therapies, such as lung exercises and oxygen therapy, can also be used to improve breathing and quality of life.