What is the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and the ability to breath. This condition can be life-threatening.

The pathophysiology of COPD

This disease starts with the damage to the airways and continues down to the lungs. You will begin displaying signs such a cough with mucus, and the cough will stay until you can’t breathe anymore.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common lung disease. COPD causes shortness of breath.

There are two primary forms of COPD:

  • Chronic bronchitis, which involves a prolonged cough with mucus.
  • Emphysema, which means damage to the lungs over time

Most people with COPD have a combination of both conditions.

Symptoms of COPD

To have a better understanding about COPD, you need to know the symptoms. The first signs are a chronic cough that won’t go away. Then you will also have some of these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath with any daily activity.
  • You will have infections that need antibiotics.
  • You will also have some blueness around your lips and on your fingertips.
  • Frequent fatigue.
  • You will struggle with a lot of mucus in your throat.

These signs are the typical symptoms of COPD that you should seek. This disease is a severe and life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment.

In some cases, other symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Having a cough with or without phlegm
  • Fatigue
  • Many respiratory infections
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea) that worsens with mild activity
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing

Since COPD symptoms occur slowly, some people may not know they have the disease.


The primary cause of COPD is smoking. The more people smoke, the higher the risk they will have of developing COPD. But some people smoke for years and never suffer from this disease.

In rare cases, nonsmokers who lack a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin may present with emphysema.

Other risk factors for COPD are:

  • Exposure to certain gases or emanations at the workplace
  • Exposure to significant amounts of pollution or indirect cigarette smoke
  • Frequent use of cooking fire without proper ventilation

Tests and exams.

Using a stethoscope to listen to the lungs can also work. However, sometimes the lungs sound normal even when a person has COPD.

Imaging of the lungs, such as x-rays and CT scans, can be helpful. Lungs may appear normal even when a person has COPD when doctors use a chest X-ray. A CT scan usually shows signs of COPD.

Sometimes a blood test called arterial blood gas can be done to measure the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

The best COPD test is a lung function test called spirometry. This consists of blowing as hard as you can into a small machine that evaluates lung capacity. The results can be analyzed immediately.

Treatment for the COPD

When you get diagnosed with COPD, you need to take the doctors’ instructions very seriously.

One of the first things that you should do when you get diagnosed with this disease is to stop smoking, in the case you are a smoker. Avoiding such vice is the most relevant aspect of your treatment.

There are also other things that you can do to make successfully overcome this condition:

  1. You need to take your medication as prescribed. Don’t skip on one day your medication. You will also need inhalers when you have this disease, and you need to use them to keep your airways open at all times.
  2. If your COPD is severe, you should go for oxygen therapy that might help with the shortness of breath. You might need to use oxygen during the day and the whole night. It depends on how severe your condition is.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is very dangerous, and you need to look the Pathophysiology of the COPD to be able to diagnose and treat the condition successfully.

There is no cure for COPD. However, many measures can be taken to relieve the symptoms and prevent the disease from getting worse.

If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Leaving this habit behind is the best way to reduce lung damage.

Medications used to treat COPD include:

  • Inhalers (bronchodilators) COPD – quick-relief medicines to help open the airways
  • Inhaled COPD – inhaled steroids or control drugs, to reduce pulmonary inflammation
  • Anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling in the airways
  • Certain antibiotics for a long time

In severe cases or during exacerbations, it may be necessary to receive:

  • Steroids orally or through a vein (intravenously)
  • Bronchodilators through a nebulizer
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Assistance during respiration from a machine through a mask, BiPAP or endotracheal tube

Your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics during exacerbations of symptoms because infections can make COPD worse.

Oxygen therapy at home may be necessary if you have a low level of oxygen in your blood.

Pulmonary rehabilitation does not cure COPD. However, it can teach you how to inhale appropriately, so that you can stay active and feel better.

Living with COPD.

You can take action every day to prevent COPD from getting worse, protect your lungs and stay healthy.

Walk to increase strength:

  • Ask your provider or therapist how much you can walk.
  • Gradually increase walking distance.
  • Try not to talk when you walk if you have trouble breathing.
  • Use breathing with pursed lips as you exhale to empty your lungs before the next breath.

The steps you can take to make your living in the home more comfortable include:

  • Avoid cold air or hot weather
  • Make sure no one smokes in the house.
  • Reduce air pollution by removing smoke from the chimney and other irritants
  • Manage stress in your state of mind

Eat healthy foods like fish, poultry or lean beef, as well as fruits and vegetables.

If you find it too challenging to maintain your weight, talk to your provider or a nutritionist about consuming foods with more calories.

Surgery may be done to treat COPD. But only a few people benefit from these surgical treatments:

  • Surgery to remove parts of the affected lung that may help other areas not so affected to work better in some patients with emphysema
  • Lung transplantation for severe cases.