COPD - Definition, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

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COPD - Definition, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment Powered By Docstoc
					What does COPD mean? COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary
Disease. It encompasses two types of disease processes namely chronic
bronchitis and emphysema. Quite often, people who suffer from COPD show
a combination of features of both disease processes. In lay person's
term, COPD means persistent lung disease with features of airway
narrowing. To be more specific, bronchitis means inflammation of the
bronchi or the larger airways of the lungs whereas emphysema means
destruction to the smaller airways and alveoli or airsacs of the lungs.
Thus COPD is commonly used to describe chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or
both.Is COPD a common condition? It is one of the commonest conditions
that require hospital admission during period of flare-ups. According to
one epidemiology study in the US, approximately eight million people have
chronic bronchitis whereas 2 million people have emphysema. As we can
see, chronic bronchitis is more common than emphysema.What are the causes
of COPD? Smoking. Smoking is the number 1 cause of COPD. More than 90
percent of COPDs are caused by smoking, cigarette or otherwise. About 30
percent of long term smokers will eventually show symptoms of COPD of
varying degrees. Other causes include air pollution and inherited enzyme
deficiency namely alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.How does smoking cause
COPD? Smoking inadvertently damages the lining of the airways. As with
any other part of the body in response to injury, inflammation occurs.
Inflammation stimulates the damaged lining to secrete mucus in an
abnormal amount and also causes the airway to constrict (narrow).What are
the symptoms of COPD? The two main symptoms are cough and
breathlessness. COPD sufferers commonly complain about breathlessness
and cough that develop gradually over a long period of time. The cough
that COPD sufferer gets are usually productive which means they commonly
cough up phlegm. The cough usually comes and goes initially but tends to
become persistent as time passes. Breathlessness is usually intermittent
and only occurs with exertion in the beginning, however if you continue
to smoke, the breathlessness persists even when you are at rest, this can
be quite distressing! Other symptoms are chronic sputum production,
where you constantly cough up phlegm all day and recurrent chest
infection. People with COPD are more prone to chest infection for
obvious reasons, as the lining in the lung looses its normal defense
mechanism against intruding bugs.COPD sounds like asthma, are they any
different? Yes. Both COPD and asthma cause similar symptoms, however,
they are different in certain ways. COPD causes permanent damage to the
airways. The obstruction is 'fixed', hence it is irreversible in general
terms. However, airway narrowing in asthma is intermittent and reverses
quite easily with medication. Having said that, both COPD and asthma is
common, people who suffer COPD can have an asthmatic component and vice
versa.What tests are needed to diagnose COPD? A test called spirometry
is often performed to diagnose COPD. Bronchodilators (drugs that cause
the airway to dilate) are usually added to confirm the diagnosis. If the
test result does not show improvement with bronchodilators, then COPD is
very likely.What are the treatments of COPD? First of all. Stop
smoking. This cannot be stressed enough. Smoking cessation is the first
thing you have to do if you want to get better. As the underlying
mechanism of COPD is irreversible, medications are used with an aim to
slow down it's progress. Drugs that are commonly used to treat COPD
include short-acting bronchodilator inhalers (i.e. salbutamol), long-
acting bronchodilator inhalers (i.e. tiotropium), steroid inhalers and
tablets are all available drugs for treatment of COPD. Again, no
treatment is more important that stop smoking. Lung transplant is the
last option and should be reserved for people with severe COPD.

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