What Is COPD?
Also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; chronic bronchitis; or emphysema.
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. Progressive means the disease gets worse over time.
COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of a slimy substance called mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. However, up to 25 percent of people with COPD never smoked. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants—such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dusts—also may contribute to COPD. A rare genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency can also cause the disease.
To understand COPD, it helps to understand how the lungs work. The air that you breathe goes down your windpipe into tubes in your lungs called bronchial tubes or airways.
Within the lungs, your bronchial tubes branch many times into thousands of smaller, thinner tubes called bronchioles. These tubes end in bunches of tiny round air sacs called alveoli.
Small blood vessels called capillaries run along the walls of the air sacs. When air reaches the air sacs, oxygen passes through the air sac walls into the blood in the capillaries. At the same time, a waste product, called carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, moves from the capillaries into the air sacs. This process, called gas exchange, brings in oxygen for the body to use for vital functions and removes the CO2.
The airways and air sacs are elastic or stretchy. When you breathe in, each air sac fills up with air, like a small balloon. When you breathe out, the air sacs deflate and the air goes out.
In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:
The airways and air sacs lose their elastic quality.
The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed.
The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed.
The airways make more mucus than usual and can become clogged.
Our health clinics at the Lake of the Ozarks hope you found this article enlightening. We also want you to know the symptoms of COPD.
Symptoms of COPD include:
- Tightness of chest
- Lack of energy
- Shortness of breath
- Blueness of lips
- Swelling of ankles
- Unintended weight loss
- Clearing of throat due to excess mucus in lungs
- Frequent respiratory infections
- A chronic cough where mucus may be produced
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