What Is COPD and What Should Be Done About It?

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease covering a wide range of ailments related to lung conditions and is primarily manifested in a shortness of breath. The patient easily gets tired even during minimal movement and constantly gasps for air. Ailments related to the lungs may include either emphysema, chronic bronchitis or both, but in either case, they fall under the COPD umbrella.

copd

As we inhale, the air we breathe travels through our windpipe through the bronchial tubes that branch out into smaller tubes termed as bronchioles which eventually end up in the air sacs called the alveoli. An important biological process called gas exchange takes place in the air sacs. Oxygen is delivered into the blood through the capillaries and carbon dioxide is removed. Because of damage wrought upon the air sacs by the disease, breathing becomes difficult and eventually leads to other complications.

What Causes COPD?

Studies indicate that the main cause of COPD is smoking. Nevertheless, further research showed that occupational exposures can lead to the disease as well. What does that mean? It’s either you work in a place where the chances of contracting COPD is very high or you’re exposed to substances that can cause symptoms of COPD.

HSE (Health, Safety, and Environment) deduced that people working in the mining industry have increased chances of contracting COPD. Exposure to a wide variety of dust and fumes prevalent in mining sites could trigger the disease:

  • Cadmium dust
  • Cadmium fumes
  • Coal dust
  • Grain and flour dust
  • Mineral dust
  • Organic dusts
  • Silica dust
  • Welding fumes

That is why many websites dedicated to the mining industry have compiled various mining safety topics to help people become more aware of the risks related to mining.

Signs and Symptoms

Aside from shortness of breath, the leading signs and symptoms of the disease include too much sputum, chest tightness and intense coughing. Being a smoker in previous years makes the patient even more vulnerable. These symptoms are wrought by airway obstruction because of certain factors such as decreased elasticity of the air sacs, thickened airway walls and destruction of walls surrounding air sacs. Pulmonary specialists subject patients to a diagnostic procedure called “spirometry” to test for the presence or extent of airway obstruction. The patients’ honesty concerning their smoking habits is also an important factor in determining the disease.

Managing the Disease

 Despite the state of the art medical technologies and advances that we enjoy today, there is still no specific known cure that has been developed to address this disease. However, lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or avoiding secondhand smoke as well as refraining from exposure to industrial or environmental pollutants may help prevent the onset of this disease. In order to manage the disease, healthcare professionals may also prescribe bronchodilators, drugs intended to broaden the breathing tubes to make you breathe more easily. To minimize inflammation of the breathing tubes or address the growing infection, drugs with strong anti-inflammatory action or antibiotics may also be prescribed. As a management tool, patients with COPD may have to learn to live with these medicines on hand for the rest of their lives. More radical methods of treatment include surgery, which involves removal of parts of the lungs with great damage or those areas affected by emphysema, but this approach is still limited to countries with advanced medical facilities and technologies.

Aside from medication and surgery, patients suffering from COPD should be vigilant to know about their medical condition as best as they could. To increase their level of empowerment, rehabilitation programs in pulmonary management or similar classes may greatly help. This will not only teach patients to be more knowledgeable of their ailment but will also empower them how to be in better control of their breathing.

The fact that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is one among the top 10 leading causes of death in the global scene should prompt us to take a more active stance in preventing this disease. Being vigilant about what is COPD as well as choosing healthy lifestyle practices may save one from contracting this debilitating disease and improve quality of life.

Image Credits:
Theeradech Sanin-FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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