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Causes of COPD

List of causes of COPD

Following is a list of causes or underlying conditions (see also Misdiagnosis of underlying causes of COPD) that could possibly cause COPD includes:

COPD Causes: Risk Factors

The following conditions have been cited in various sources as potentially causal risk factors related to COPD:

COPD Causes: Male-Female Gender Ratio

Gender of Patients for COPD: More common in men, but women increasing, reflecting smoking patterns....more »

Gender Profile of COPD: Although COPD is still much more common in men than women, the greatest increase in the COPD death rate between 1979 and 1989 occurred in... (Source: excerpt from What is COPD: NHLBI) ...more »

COPD: Related Medical Conditions

To research the causes of COPD, consider researching the causes of these these diseases that may be similar, or associated with COPD:

COPD: Causes and Types

Causes of Types of COPD: Review the cause informationfor the various types of COPD:

Causes of Broader Categories of COPD: Review the causal information about the various more general categories of medical conditions:

COPD as a complication of other conditions:

Other conditions that might have COPD as a complication may, potentially, be an underlying cause of COPD. Our database lists the following as having COPD as a complication of that condition:

What causes COPD?

Causes: COPD: The number one cause of COPD is smoking. Other contributing factors in its development or exacerbation (increase in severity) of include long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust. It is also recommended to avoid long-term exposure to second hand smoke. COPD is not infectious and cannot be passed from person to person.
Article excerpts about the causes of COPD:

COPD: What Goes Wrong?: NHLBI (Excerpt)

When COPD develops, the walls of the small airways and alveoli lose their elasticity. The airway walls thicken, closing off some of the smaller air passages and narrowing larger ones. The passageways also become plugged with mucus. Air continues to get into alveoli when the lung expands during inhalation, but it is often unable to escape during exhalation because the air passages tend to collapse during exhalation, trapping the "stale" air in the lungs. These abnormalities create two serious problems which affect gas exchange:

  • Blood flow and air flow to the walls of the alveoli where gas exchange takes place are uneven or mismatched. In some alveoli there is adequate blood flow but little air, while in others there is a good supply of fresh air but not enough blood flow. When this occurs, fresh air cannot reach areas where there is good blood flow and oxygen cannot enter the bloodstream in normal quantities.

  • Pushing the air through narrowed obstructed airways becomes harder and harder. This tires the respiratory muscles so that they are unable to get enough air to the alveoli. The critical step for removing carbon dioxide from the blood is adequate alveolar airflow. If airflow to the alveoli is insufficient, carbon dioxide builds up in the blood and blood oxygen diminishes. Inadequate supply of fresh air to the alveoli is called hypoventilation. Breathing oxygen can often correct the blood oxygen levels, but this does not help remove carbon dioxide. When carbon dioxide accumulation becomes a severe problem, mechanical breathing machines called respirators, or ventilators, must be used.
(Source: excerpt from COPD: What Goes Wrong?: NHLBI)

COPD: What Goes Wrong?: NHLBI (Excerpt)

Pulmonary function studies of large groups of people show that lung function--the ability to move air into and out of the lungs--declines slowly with age even in healthy nonsmokers. Because healthy nonsmokers have excess lung capacity, this gradual loss of function does not lead to any symptoms. In smokers, however, lung function tends to worsen much more rapidly. If a smoker stops smoking before serious COPD develops, the rate at which lung function declines returns to almost normal. Unfortunately, because some lung damage cannot be reversed, pulmonary function is unlikely to return completely to normal. (Source: excerpt from COPD: What Goes Wrong?: NHLBI)

Medical news summaries relating to COPD:

The following medical news items are relevant to causes of COPD:

Related information on causes of COPD:

As with all medical conditions, there may be many causal factors. Further relevant information on causes of COPD may be found in:


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