Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of long-term and progressive lung diseases that cause obstructed airflow from the lungs and breathing-related issues. There are various causes of abnormalities in the airways of the lungs restricting the airflow in and out of the lungs. There may be impairment in the parts of the lung, mucus obstructing the airways, and narrowing of the airways due to inflammation and swelling of the airway lining. Moreover, people with COPD are more likely to develop various health conditions such as heart disease and lung cancer.
What are the types of COPD?
COPD is an umbrella term used for a number of lung conditions or diseases. There are two main types of COPD. They are:
- EmphysemaEmphysema is a condition that refers to the destruction of the walls of the air sacs or alveoli of the lungs which interferes with airflow causing shortness of breath. Alveoli are tiny and fragile air sacs located in the bronchial tubes at the end of the airways in the lungs. Damaged and stretched alveoli fail to absorb and take oxygen into the blood and remove carbon dioxide from the body which is trapped in the lungs.
- Chronic bronchitisChronic bronchitis is a condition that occurs as a cough that persists for at least 3 months to two years with the production of mucus resulting from inflammation in the airways. In this condition, cilia which is the small hair that lines the bronchial tubes and usually gets rid of mucus is damaged. The long-term inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes lead to the accumulation of mucus in the airways. This obstructs the airflow going into and out of the lungs which invariably results in breathing difficulties and increased mucus production in the lungs.
What are the symptoms of COPD?
At the initial stage, the symptoms of COPD may not be that evident or are just mild. The condition exacerbates with time, and the following signs and symptoms of COPD become obvious. These include:
- Shortness of breath after physical activity or exercise
- Chronic cough or cough that does not go away often with lots of mucus
- Wheezing when you breathe or noisy breathing
- Tightness in your chest
- Frequent colds, flu, or other respiratory infections
- Need to clear your throat often or clear mucus from your lungs every day
- Blue fingernails
- Low or lack of energy
- Unexpected weight loss
What are the causes and risk factors of COPD?
COPD develops gradually over time with prolonged exposure to things that irritate the lungs. These include:
- Exposure to tobacco
Consumption of tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, is the major cause of COPD. Exposure to second-hand smoke where you hang around other smokers and breathe in the toxins passively can also lead to COPD. If you are already diagnosed with COPD, smoking can exacerbate the condition.
- Occupational exposure to dust, fumes, or chemicals
People who are exposed to dust, fumes, or chemicals for a prolonged time at the workplace might also develop this condition.
- Indoor air pollution
The use of biomass fuel such as wood and cow dung for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated homes exposes people to high levels of smoke which can increase the risk of developing COPD.
Other risk factors include:
Age is also an important risk factor for developing COPD. Since the condition develops gradually over time, symptoms of COPD usually begin around the age of 40.
- Genetic condition
Even though it is rare, genetic predisposition can also increase the risk for COPD. People who lack a protein called alpha 1 antitrypsin are more likely to develop the condition as the deficiency can deteriorate the lungs’ health. This can be associated with people developing COPD at a young age.
What are the diagnostic procedures for COPD?
Diagnosis for COPD is based on signs, symptoms, a physical exam, medical and family histories, and test results.
The doctor will inquire about certain things which you should answer without leaving any details:
- Whether you consume tobacco or have indulged in the past
- Whether you are exposed to secondhand smoke often
- Whether your job requires exposure to lung irritants such as dust, fumes, and chemicals
- Whether you have a family history of COPD
- Whether you are diagnosed with other pulmonary conditions
- What symptoms have you experienced and for how long
The doctor will then physically examine your body with a stethoscope to listen to your breathing and lungs. After that, the doctor may recommend some tests to determine whether you have COPD or not. These tests include:
- SpirometryIt is a pulmonary function test that assesses how well your lungs function when breathing in and out. During this painless test, you will be asked to take a deep breath in and then blow into a tube connected to a small machine called a spirometer. The doctor may also see the effectiveness of medicines by making you take medicines and then compare the test results before and after taking the medicine. The test results can help doctors in evaluating the severity of COPD and help determine treatments.
- Imaging testsA chest X-ray or chest CT scan can create images or pictures of the details inside the chest such as lungs, blood vessels, and heart. These images can reveal the signs of COPD as well as determine whether other underlying condition is causing the symptoms.
- An arterial blood gas test. This test measures the level of oxygen in the blood and requires a blood sample taken from an artery. The test results help the doctor to determine how severe your COPD is and whether there is a need for a therapy called oxygen therapy.
What treatments are available for COPD?
There is no cure for COPD at the moment. However, lifestyle changes and treatments can help relieve the symptoms and slow the progress of the disease which can improve the overall quality of life.
- Oxygen therapyThis therapy is given when the blood oxygen level is critically low. To enable you to breathe without difficulty, you are given supplemental oxygen with the help of a mask or nasal cannula.
- SurgeryThere are various surgeries to improve the breathing condition such as bullectomy, lung volume reduction surgery, lung transplantation, and endobronchial valves (EBV). However, these surgeries are reserved only for severe COPD or when surgery is the only option.
If you are interested in getting additional information on COPD, you can visit and consult the experts at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre.
Meet the best pulmonologists at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad
Dr. Brijesh Prajapat (Senior Consultant, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine)
Dr. Brijesh Prajapat is a highly experienced pulmonologist who has worked for more than 8 years in various reputed organizations. Presently, he is a senior consultant of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre. Dr. Brijesh Prajapat possesses expertise in pulmonary medicine, sleep medicine, and critical care medicine.
Dr. Mohan Bandhu Gupta (Senior Consultant – Chest & Allergy)
Dr. Mohan Bandhu is a renowned Pulmonologist in Ghaziabad and currently practices at Yashoda Super Speciality Hospital, Ghaziabad. With an experience of more than 20 years where he worked as a Lung specialist, and has abundant knowledge and proficient skills in the field. Dr. Mohan Bandhu pursued a degree in MBBS, MD-Chest Disease and FCCS from the United States of America.
Dr. Neerav Tyagi (Senior Consultant, Pulmonology)
Dr. Neerav Tyagi is a dedicated pulmonologist who has worked in the field for three decades. His expertise lies in tuberculosis, asthma, bronchiectasis, and pneumonia. He completed his M.B.B.S. as a gold medalist from King George’s Medical College and M.D. from King George’s Medical University, Lucknow. Dr. Neerav Tyagi is the first in Ghaziabad to start bronchoscopy.