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COPD Awareness Month: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes damage to the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

Symptoms of COPD

Usually, most people don’t exhibit symptoms until COPD has already caused significant lung damage. Symptoms typically worsen over time. Symptoms may include:

  • A chronic cough that produces sputum (mixture of saliva and mucus)
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds
  • Unintended weight loss (severe cases)
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Excess mucus in your lungs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lack of energy
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness

As COPD worsens, it can become difficult to complete daily tasks like climbing stairs or getting dressed, as breathing takes much more energy than normal. COPD sufferers can also experience flare-ups called exacerbations, where symptoms become worse than usual and can last for several days. COPD is often a mix of two different diseases:

Emphysema – A lung disease that causes damage to the walls and elastic fibers of the tiny air sacs within the lungs. These can collapse when exhaling, impairing the airflow out of the lungs.

Chronic bronchitis – Chronic bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed and narrowed, resulting in mucus production, which can contribute to the blockage of the tubes. A chronic cough typically develops in an attempt to clear the airways.

What causes COPD?

COPD is mainly caused by smoking cigarettes or second hand smoke exposure. Over time, tobacco smoke irritates the airways and causes the fibers in the lungs to lose their elasticity. The lungs rely on this elasticity to force air out of the body when exhaling. As the elasticity weakens, it causes small amounts of air to be trapped in the lungs.

Treating COPD

Treating COPD will depend on the severity and unique aspects of each case. The first and most important step in treating COPD is to stop all smoking and tobacco use. There are several kinds of medications used to treat symptoms and complications of COPD, including inhalers, antibiotics and oral medications. Lung therapies like oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation can also be used. In severe cases, surgeries may be necessary.

For more information about treating COPD, call the physicians at Pomona Valley Health Centers today at (888) 686-0773 to schedule an appointment.