Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD, is a lung disease in which the lung airways suffer serious damage, eventually blocking the airways. COPD is progressive in nature, so it typically worsens over time unless it is treated. The two primary forms of COPD are bronchitis and emphysema. Most often, these two diseases occur simultaneously in COPD patients.
A chronic cough is one of the most obvious symptoms. Many people suffering from COPD also cough up mucus on a regular basis. It is common for COPD sufferers to have significant breathing problems. Often, breathing in and out will causing a wheezing sound in COPD patients. This wheezing commonly gets worse after strenuous activity. Some COPD sufferers will experience pain or tightening in their chest.
Cigarette smokers are the group most likely to have COPD. The majority of COPD patients are either current or past cigarette smokers. Other types of smoking can also lead to the development of COPD, although cigar and pipe smokers don’t get COPD as often because they usually do not inhale the smoke. While not common, secondhand smoke can cause COPD as well. Air pollution is another cause of COPD. Poor ventilation can be a factor in the development of COPD.
The doctor may perform several different tests to diagnose COPD. A spirometry test is a breathing test that demonstrates lung function. It is a simple and painless test that allows the doctor to see how much air the lungs are capable of holding and how quickly that air can be expelled. Other tests that may be used to diagnose COPD include X-ray images of the chest, a bronchodilator reversibility test, and an arterial blood gas test.
A prescription of a bronchodilator medication via an inhaler is a common COPD treatment. This medication can be very effective at opening closed airways. Other medications that may be used include corticosteroids and antibiotics. COPD sufferers are typically encouraged to get flu or pneumonia vaccinations. Oxygen therapy may also be useful.
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