COPD: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Diagnostic Procedures, Prevention
COPD is a type of lung disease in which one faces difficulty breathing along with fatigue,
weakness and continuous coughing and chest tightness. Genetic factors, exposure to
environmental pollutants and smoking may be some of the causes of COPD.
What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a chronic condition that occurs in the lungs. It is a progressive disease as its severity increases over time. Inflammation in the lungs acts as a hurdle for normal airflow due to which difficulty in breathing and other symptoms may arise.
There is an added risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer if you suffer from COPD. COPD may also arise from chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
In chronic bronchitis, inflammation occurs in the inner lining of bronchioles which are the tube-like structures present in the lungs that allow the passage of air during breathing. In emphysema, the air sacs present in the lungs which carry air to and from the lungs get damaged.
Signs & symptoms
In case you are suffering from COPD, you may have the following signs and symptoms:
- Problems in breathing, especially when walking fast or doing other physical workouts
- A large amount of green, yellow or colourless mucus
- Fatigue and weakness
- In severe cases, there may be weight loss without any valid reason
- Chest tightness
- Presence of a whistling sound while breathing
- Bluish fingernails or lips
- Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
- Persistent occurrence of colds and respiratory infections
- Smoking: It is one of the most common causes of COPD. Irreversible damage to the lungs may arise
due to exposure to chemicals and smoke for a long time. In some cases, COPD is also caused by second hand smoke.
- Polluted environment: COPD is also caused if you expose yourself to pollution, chemical fumes, harmful substances or dust.
- Genetic factors: A low level of alpha-1-antitrypsin, a protein responsible for the regulation of the mechanism of lung protection in the body, due to DNA abnormality may cause COPD.
- Underlying diseases: In the case of lung diseases such as asthma, damage to the lungs may occur resulting in COPD.
- Smoking:You are at greater risk if you smoke cigarettes.
- Genetics: COPD may develop in case you have a deficiency of alpha- 1- antitrypsin.
- Occupation: If you have an occupation that involves exposure to chemical fumes and harmful substances, you are at a greater risk of developing COPD.
- Exposure to pollution: The risk of developing COPD may also increase in case you are exposed to pollutants or are exposed to an environment that contains fumes of burning fuel and micro-particles.
- Infection and various diseases: If you are suffering from lung diseases, such as asthma, or respiratory tract infections, you are at high risk of developing COPD.
- Age: COPD may develop at any age. However, the risk of having this disease increases if you are 40 years or more in age.
Doctors may conduct a physical examination. They may inspect the signs and symptoms and ask about your medical records, the medical history of the family and the type of occupation you do.
- Your lung function tests may be conducted which would help them to determine the health of your lungs.
- They may use spirometry, a device that measures the amount of air you inhale and the force with which the lungs exhale.
- They may also recommend other tests such as a six-minute walk test, to examine lung capacity.
- To examine the extent of lung damage, the presence of lung cancer and emphysema, doctors may recommend you have a chest X-ray and chest CT scan.
- Doctors may also recommend laboratory analysis to examine if you have an alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. This is usually recommended if you have had any COPD history in your family.
You may be asked to undergo a blood gas analysis that measures the quantity of oxygen and carbon dioxide present in the blood.
- Medication: Doctors may prescribe bronchodilators, drugs that make it easier to breathe. The prescription may also have steroids that help in minimizing inflammation and provide relief from symptoms.
- To improve breathing, inhibitors such as theophylline and phosphodiesterase may also be prescribed. Antibiotics may be prescribed if you have a respiratory tract infection.
- Lung therapy: Doctors may use various devices to deliver oxygen if the blood does not have adequate oxygen. You may need a continuous supply of oxygen in the case of severe COPD.
- Surgery: Surgery is done in case of severe COPD and emphysema. Lung volume reduction surgery may be performed to eliminate the damaged lung tissues to provide space for healthy tissues.
Doctors may also perform a bullectomy in which large spaces that develop due to damaged air sacs are cleared. A lung transplant may be done if the lung is severely damaged.
Follow these measures to avoid COPD:
- Do not smoke
- Avoid exposure to chemical fumes, smoke and dust
- Consume plenty of water and use a humidifier
- Consume a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
- Keep visiting a doctor for regular check ups
When to consult a doctor?
In the case of COPD, you must consult a doctor as soon as you find any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Trouble in breathing
- Coughing which more than normal
- Fever and change in the color of mucus
- Respiratory infection
- Faster heartbeat
- Bluishness of fingernails and lips
- Difficulties in concentrating and feeling of dizziness
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are the possible complications of COPD?
COPD may cause lung cancer if allowed to progress. Heart problems, respiratory infections,
high pressure in the lungs and depression may also be caused due to COPD.
Do I need oxygen during the shower?
In case of severe COPD, doctors may recommend you wear oxygen.
Does exercise help COPD?
Exercise provides strength to the respiratory muscle, improves breathing, and minimizes the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and depression. It also helps in reducing the side effects of steroids.
Looking for specialists/ doctors for COPD in Delhi NCR?
The Centre for Chest & Respiratory Diseases at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru
Nagar, Ghaziabad provides you with the best care and treatment you require.
With world-class and highly advanced machines, you get all the facilities you may need. Our
doctors are highly skilled with years of experience and will guide and motivate you
throughout your treatment.
Dr Neerav Tyagi, one of our highly skilled pulmonologists, has expertise in various lung and
chest diseases such as tuberculosis, asthma, bronchiectasis and pneumonia with an
experience of more than 29 years.
Dr Brijesh Prajapat has abundant experience, having worked for more than 8 years with
various organizations including PGIMS, and Rohtak. He possesses expertise in pulmonary
medicine, sleep medicine and critical care medicine.