Chronic obstructive airway disease or COPD is a preventable and treatable respiratory disorder that is progressive causing airflow limitation. People with COPD often has persistent cough (often dry and sometime with mucus), difficulty breathing and feeling tired especially with exertion.
COPD is caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke. COPD can also be cause by heavy exposure to certain dusts, chemical and air pollution commonly associated with occupation such as welding, coal mines and building construction. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two most common conditions that contribute to COPD. These two conditions usually occur together and can vary in severity among individuals with COPD.
Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that is present for at least three months each year for two years. There is chronic inflammation and swelling inside of the airway (bronchioles) causing it to be narrow than normal. Emphysema is dilatation of the airspaces (alveoli) that cause permanent damage and lose its stretchiness. Combination of dilated alveoli and narrowed airways prevent the lungs from emptying normally and become trapped in the lungs. This result in the lung to expand abnormally (‘hyperinflation’).
People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, pneumothorax, repeated lung infections and depression.
COPD can be diagnosed based on the history of respitory symptoms and clinical examination, chest xray and lung function test or spirometry. The first and most important treatment of COPD in smokers is to stop smoking. There are medications and community services available to help you stop smoking. There are several inhalers such as bronchodilator, inhaled corticosteroid, oral steroid and oral antibiotic that can be use to relief symptoms, treat exacerbation and preventing further loss of lung function.
It is also important for COPD patient to get their flu and pneumococcal vaccination to reduce risk of getting severe lung infections. Some patient may also require portable or home oxygen if the oxygen level in their body is too low. Having a proper nutrition with good quality protein- rich foods and being in a good physical shape is also important. Supervised pulmonary rehabilitation exercises can also help to improve breathing symptoms and keep patient as active as possible.
COPD is a serious progressive, lifelong condition with no cure but it can be prevented by practicing healthy lifestyle practices such as quit smoking and exercise regularly. If you are a smoker and have difficulties to quit smoking, talk to our doctor about strategies to help you kick off smoking permanently.