COPD, which stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a lung disease acquired by individuals who are exposed to risk factors that damage their lungs in the long term. This results in the organ’s progressively deteriorating function, which is normally irreversible.
One of the most important facts about COPD is that it can cause lung damage, which makes breathing more difficult as the condition progresses. Doctors often categorize COPD stages based on certain tell-tale symptoms, along with results from several test, including spirometry, which measures two things:
COPD is identified in patients who have one or more of the conditions related to the disease: chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which are both conditions that limit breathing capacity.
While COPD is an irreversible, incurable condition, its progression is treatable and manageable. Knowing important facts about COPD, including the risk factors and causes, could help you manage or avoid the condition altogether.
COPD is primarily caused by tobacco smoke and other pollutants that affect the function of the lungs. Some other important facts about COPD are the following possible causes:
According to various studies, up to 90% of COPD patients are smokers. In the Philippines, the prevalence of COPD in adults was recorded at 14% among adults, making the disease one of the top 10 causes of death among Filipinos in 2016. Still, there is a need to raise awareness about the important facts about COPD in order to educate the public on how to prevent it.
This highlights smoking as the main cause of COPD, with the two primary conditions associated with COPD also primarily seen in chronic smokers:
People who are at risk of COPD are mostly those who smoke on a daily basis or encounter pollutants at work that would cause these conditions. Factors which may make you more susceptible to COPD are:
COPD symptoms don’t usually manifest until the condition worsens.
Some signs and symptoms include:
These signs and symptoms can develop slowly and gradually, often being mistaken for seasonal sickness. It can also be related to other illnesses and as such, might not be diagnosed until it has progressed later on. This is why it’s important to be aware of the important facts about COPD along with risk factors to make it easier for your physician to diagnose your condition.
Individuals who present with the above symptoms and have been exposed to several of COPD risk factors are considered suspected cases. These cases are then confirmed through various diagnostic tests:
Your physician will be able to gauge your condition in one of several stages based on the severity of your symptoms, which will be used to prescribe treatments that will work best at a specific stage. This measurement of the stages of COPD is called the GOLD System, developed by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, which the World Health Organization established in 1997.
These stages vary on certain factors: spirometry results, the severity and prognosis of the condition, and any pre-existing health problems that might affect recovery from COPD, and are classified under four stages:
While COPD is not curable, there are a number of treatment options meant to manage symptoms and improve the quality of life of patients with COPD.
These include prescribed lifestyle changes, as well as medications used to ease the symptoms and delay the onset or worsening of your condition. In extreme cases, surgical options may also be prescribed, such as bullectomy, lung volume reduction (LVRS) and lung transplantation.
Generally, the first thing your physician will encourage you to do is to quit smoking if you still are, or avoid contact with people and environments that expose you to tobacco and other pollutants known to cause COPD.
Because COPD is irreversible, avoiding risk factors early on upon diagnosis will greatly improve your outlook. A strict rehabilitation program might also be included, where you will have to follow strict diet and exercise programs meant to keep you active and healthy.
For moderate cases or those progressing into the more severe stages of COPD, medical intervention may be needed. These may include some of the following:
For severe cases of COPD, doctors might suggest the possibility of surgery to address the root cause of COPD in your lungs:
These procedures also have their own risks, and might not be applicable for all COPD patients. At the end of the day, the best way to manage this illness is to keep away from risk factors such that your chances of developing COPD or worsening an existing condition becomes lower.
Aside from knowing important facts about COPD, adopting certain lifestyle changes can help prevent and manage COPD. Some examples are the following:
As with any illness, managing one’s exposure to risk factors will help minimize the risk of conditions that might eventually lead to COPD.
For those living with the condition, always remembering the important facts about COPD and keeping a positive mindset and a disciplined approach can help control and manage symptoms in order to improve overall health.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.