Diseases

Smoking and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Or (COPD) – How Are They Related?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is also known as Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. These terms are used to refer to chronic respiratory diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These conditions are caused by the obstruction to air flow in the airways of the lungs and will normally interferes with normal breathing.

The persistent inflammation of the airways or bronchi of the lungs is the main cause in chronic bronchitis. As for emphysema, it is due to damage to the smaller airways or bronchioles and air sacs or alveoli of the lungs. Most people with COPD have a mix of both emphysema and bronchitis.

What are the main causes of COPD?

Smoking is the main culprit in most chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases. Smoking damages the lining of the airways of the lungs which become inflamed and damaged. Another cause is air pollution including polluted word conditions.

How is smoking related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?

Smoking will cause damage to a smoker’s airways. Once these airways are damaged it cannot be reversed. So if you smoke , quitting is the single most important step a smoker can take. When you quit or stop smoking, you will make a huge difference to the rate at which your disease progresses. It can help to prevent the progression of the condition.

Even if a smoker is fairly advanced in their chronic obstructive lung disease, it is never to late to stop smoking. The benefit is significant because you are able to prevent further progression of the disease. However, please remember that the earlier a smoker quit, the smaller is the degree of permanent damage to the lungs.

Currently there is no cure. However, medications are available and can treat the symptoms and complications associated with the disease. The best alternative is a lifestyle change to minimise the progression of the condition.

What are the symptoms?

Cough is usually the first symptom to develop. It is a “wet” cough or cough with phlegm or sputum. In the early stages a person will experience intermittent, on and off, type of coughing. As the condition worsens, the cough becomes more persistent. “Smoker’s Cough” is what it is most commonly referred.

Excessive sputum is caused by the excessive damage to the airways. This will contribute to the formation of excessive sputum and hence resulting in a “wet” cough

Shortness of breath or breathlessness due to simple exertion, example when you climb stairs, will worsen as the disease progresses over the years. In more advance stage of COLD, breathlessness can also occur when a person is resting. It can be very distressing.

COPD will worsen when a person catches a cold/flu or even in the presence of air pollution. Sometimes it can lead to an acute exacerbation or acute episode.

How is the disease diagnosed?

There are four ways your doctor will use to determine if you suffering from COPD or showing symptoms of the disease:

  • check if you have cough, excessive sputum and breathlessness
  • check if you have risk factors for developing the disease example smoking and exposure to environmental toxins or highly polluted environment
  • Another method that your doctor will use is using the Spirometer. The Spirometer is the most important tool used the confirm the disease. It can detect the disease in the early stages even when a person does not have any of the symptoms. A patient will be asked to blow hard into the Spirometer and the readings will help to confirm the presence of the disease and assess it severity. The test is also used to monitor a patient’s progress over time and review the effectiveness of treatment.
  • Chest X-ray is another method used to rule out other symptoms or conditions which may seem like COLD. It is also useful in detecting the complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, chest X-ray by itself cannot confirm the diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

So if you are a smoker, the most important step you can take is to quit smoking. It can make a huge difference to the rate at which your disease progresses.

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