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Diseases » COPD » Introduction
 

COPD

COPD: Introduction

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a chronic, ongoing, progressive disease of the lower respiratory tract in the lungs. The hallmark of the disease is difficulty with breathing that slowly gets worse over time. COPD is a seriously disabling disease with the potential for major complications and is often eventually fatal. COPD is a major cause of disability, and it's the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

COPD is usually the result of a combination of two conditions, emphysema and chronic obstructive bronchitis. Most people who have COPD have both conditions.

COPD develops most often as a result of smoking, but can also occur from long-term inhalation of irritants into the lungs, such as such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust. It is also recommended to avoid long-term exposure to second hand smoke. The longer the lungs are exposed to smoke or irritants, the higher the risk for developing COPD. The disease is usually diagnosed in middle-age or elderly people, but it can happen younger in life.

In healthy lungs, air and oxygen pass through the upper respiratory tract and into the bronchioles and the alveoli in the lungs. The alveoli are tiny hollow sack-like structures where oxygen is absorbed in to the bloodstream. However, long-term inhalation of smoke or other irritants results in a loss of elasticity in the bronchioles and alveoli, destruction of the walls between alveoli, and swelling and inflammation. There is also an abnormally large amount of mucus production, which can block airways.

The symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, a loose cough that produces large amount of mucus, and chest tightness. Complications of COPD can be serious, even life threatening, and result in additional symptoms. For more details on symptoms, refer to symptoms of COPD.

Making a diagnosis of COPD begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, smoking history and exposure to lung irritants. A physical examination is also performed and includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that lungs make during respiration. Lung sounds that may point to a diagnosis of COPD include wheezing and decreased lung sounds.

Diagnostic testing can include lung function tests, such as a spirometry, which measures how much air is moved in and out of the lungs. A chest X-ray and CT scan of the chest can evaluate such factors as the presence of other conditions that may occur with or worsen COPD, such as pneumonia and congestive heart failure. An arterial blood gas tests a sample of blood taken from an artery for many parameters of effective breathing, including the oxygen level in the blood.

It is possible that a diagnosis of COPD can be missed or delayed because the disease progresses gradually. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of COPD.

There is no cure for COPD. The damage done to the airways in the lungs by smoke or other irritants is permanent and is not reversible. However, with regular medical care and consistent patient compliance with treatments and lifestyle changes, the symptoms of COPD can be minimized and progression of the disease can be slowed. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of COPD. ...more »

COPD: COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a chronic, ongoing, progressive disease of the lower respiratory tract in the lungs. The hallmark of the disease is difficulty with breathing that slowly gets worse over time. COPD is a seriously disabling disease with the potential for major complications and is often eventually fatal. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, COPD is a major cause of disability, and it's the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

The disease develops most often as a result of smoking, but can also occur from long-term inhalation of other irritants into the lungs. COPD develops when irritants are breathed into the respiratory tract into the bronchioles, small hollow passageways that branch off the main airway from the mouth and nose. Normally, air and needed oxygen pass through the bronchioles and into the alveoli, tiny hollow sack-like structures in the lungs where oxygen is absorbed in to the bloodstream. When air is mixed with smoke or irritants, it can damage the lungs and their ability to take in enough oxygen. Long-term inhalation of irritants results in a loss of elasticity in the bronchioles and alveoli, destruction of the walls between alveoli, and swelling and inflammation of the airways. There is also an abnormally large amount of mucus production, which can block airways. The longer the lungs are exposed to smoke or irritants, the more likely it is that you will develop COPD. COPD is usually diagnosed in middle-age or elderly people, but it can happen younger in life. ...more »

COPD: Symptoms

The severity of symptoms of COPD varies between individuals and the amount of lung damage that has been done. Symptoms are related to the lower levels of oxygen in the blood that is the result of lung damage due to COPD.

Typical symptoms include shortness of breath, especially with exertion, an ongoing loose cough that produces large amount of mucus (smoker's cough), wheezing (a ...more symptoms »

COPD: Treatments

The goal of treatment for COPD is to control symptoms to a degree that allows people with the disease to breathe easier and live as normally and actively as possible for as long as possible.

The key treatment and prevention for COPD is to quit smoking. It is also important to eliminate or minimize exposure to potential lung irritants that can lead to or worsen COPD. These ...more treatments »

COPD: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of COPD may be delayed or missed because the symptoms of COPD generally develop slowly over years and may not be noticed initially. Some symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and pallor, can be vague and attributed to other conditions as such as aging. Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain as similar to symptoms for ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of COPD

Treatments for COPD

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to COPD:

Wrongly Diagnosed with COPD?

COPD: Related Patient Stories

COPD: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and COPD.

Types of COPD

Curable Types of COPD

Possibly curable types of COPD include:

  • Smoking induced COPD
  • Occupational exposure induced COPD
  • Air pollution induced COPD
  • more types...»

Rare Types of COPD:

Rare types of COPD include:

Diagnostic Tests for COPD

Test for COPD in your own home

Click for Tests
  • Lung function tests
    • Spirometer (lung function test)
    • Forced vital capacity (FVC) lung test
    • Residual volume (RV) lung test
    • Total lung capacity (TLC) lung test
  • more tests...»

COPD: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to COPD:

Causes of COPD

More information about causes of COPD:

Disease Topics Related To COPD

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, COPD:

COPD: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and COPD

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COPD: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: COPD

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to COPD:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to COPD, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

COPD: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for COPD

COPD: Animations

Prognosis for COPD

Prognosis for COPD: Variable. Good prognosis depends on early diagnosis (i.e. on extent of lung damage).

Research about COPD

Visit our research pages for current research about COPD treatments.

Clinical Trials for COPD

The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for COPD include:

Prevention of COPD

Prevention information for COPD has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of COPD.

Statistics for COPD

COPD: Broader Related Topics

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about COPD, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also called chronic obstructive lung disease, is a term that is used for two closely related diseases of the respiratory system: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In many patients these diseases occur together, although there may be more symptoms of one than the other. Most patients with these diseases have a long history of heavy cigarette smoking. (Source: excerpt from What is COPD: NHLBI)

Definitions of COPD:

Chronic, irreversible obstruction of air flow from the lungs. - (Source - Diseases Database)

A nonreversible lung disease that is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis; usually patients have been heavy cigarette smokers - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

 

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