Chronic inhalation of a foreign substance such as asbestos and cigarette smoke is the principal cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The damaging of bronchioles is also achieved through marijuana smoke, chemical gas and even genetic diseases such as alpha-1 anti-trypsin deficiency.
The typical tell-tale sign of COPD is morning cough and it is usually the first symptom that presents itself. As the disease progresses further, chronic coughs, pulmonary secretions (mucus) and dyspnea are a mainstay of the disease and can severely interfere with one’s quality of life and everyday activities.
Main Symptoms of COPD:
- Chronic cough, with morning cough making the initial appearance. As COPD worsens, chronic coughing occurs at all times of the day.
- Dyspnea. Initially, dyspnea only occurs during mild activities like brisk walking and such (not to mention forceful exertion). However, as COPD worsens, taking in normal effortless breaths can turn laborious and demanding.
- Wheezing due to air passages becoming narrow and the bronchiole smooth muscle inflammation.
- An increase in the frequency of pulmonary infections.
Often times, COPD worsens as a result of infection or gets exacerbated because of inhalation of air pollutants or other irritants. The rapid increase in intensity of COPD symptoms is then experienced. The following symptoms signal a flare up:
- Extreme shortness of breath
- Increased mucus production with higher thickness and color intensity
- Wheezy sounds when breathing
- Inflamed ankles (not always)
Diagnosis of COPD
Various exams are performed to properly diagnose COPD. A combination of spirometry, hematocrit and Image testing is necessary to properly measure lung functionality. Spirometry will tell the physician the quantity of air the patient is able to inhale/exhale as well as the speed with which we exhale. If COPD is present, exhalation tends to be more difficult.
Obviously, prevention of COPD begins with cessation of smoking if such was the underlying cause. Breathing exercises and maintaining an active lifestyle are all important to improving lung function, regardless if one suffers from COPD or not. Medications for both short term relief and long-term management are also prescribed.