COPD: Stages, Causes, Treatments
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD is a group of lung diseases with the most common lung complications being emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Although there is not enough research to confirm the prevalence rates of COPD in the UAE, it is a common concern due to the air quality in the UAE and the popularity of tobacco smoking in the region. As lung health is something a lot of people need to be mindful of in the UAE, developing a better understanding of COPD is very important.
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People suffering from COPD will most likely have both emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema works to destroy the air sacs in your lungs, interfering with the outward flow of air when you breathe. Bronchitis causes your bronchial tubes to become inflamed and allows the build-up of mucus.
COPD is not curable, however, it can be managed through lifestyle and medication. Developing a better understanding of your health condition and COPD will also prevent you from getting it in the first place.
Having COPD will make it difficult for you to breathe. And when breathing becomes more and more difficult, that is when the condition of your lungs has reached its low point.
Symptoms will start mild at first, and progress as time goes on. Symptoms during the early stages are very subtle and may be mistaken for a common cold. These include:
- Flem build up in your throat
- Sore and dry throat
- Shortness of breath or difficulty catching a breath, particularly after physical activity
- General avoidance of physical activity
These symptoms will start very mild and progress into more severe levels. It’s best to see a doctor before it gets any worse as it is a sign that the condition of your lungs is getting worse. More serious symptoms likely to occur in advanced stages of COPD include:
- Chronic coughing
- Weakness in muscle and joints
- Recurring colds and fevers
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Swelling in feet, ankles, or legs
- Feeling faint
- Pale skin
The biggest and most prominent cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. 90% of all people who develop COPD in their health are smokers or previous smokers.
People with COPD are likely to be above the age of 40 and are long-time smokers. Secondhand smoke, shisha, vaporizers and any other form of inhaling smoke into your lungs can contribute to COPD development. Your risk of COPD is even greater if you have an existing health condition including asthma. It is also worth noting that COPD is not contagious.
COPD can also develop if you are exposed to toxic fumes, chemicals, and air pollution. People who consistently work in industrial environments with poor air ventilation are at a greater risk.
Genetic factors have also been known to contribute to the development of COPD. One study showed that 5% of people with COPD have a deficiency in a certain protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin, causing your lungs to deteriorate at a faster rate.
COPD needs to be tested through multiple different methods for diagnosis. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will conduct physical exams and tests to see how fat the disease has developed. It is important to seek medical advice if you:
- Are a smoker
- Constantly exposed to harmful fumes and toxins
- Have a family history of COPD
- Have an existing health condition affecting your lungs
- Already using a prescription medication
Your doctor will get you to go through physical examinations to test your lung functioning as well as using imaging tests including X-ray and CT scans. Arterial blood gas tests are also commonly done to measure your blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Although you can’t cure or reverse the development of COPD in your health, by treating it appropriately and regularly check in with your doctor, you can certainly manage the condition.
Your doctor can prescribe you oral medication to help you breathe easier and decrease inflammation in your lungs. Oxygen therapy is also a common treatment as it supplies you with supplemental oxygen through a mask or nasal cannula to help you breathe easier.
Surgery is also another option, but only in severe cases of COPD. In an unlikely, but a possible case for dire situations of COPD, lung transplants can also be an option.
Lifestyle changes are also crucial in the management and prevention of COPD. Stop smoking by joining a helpline and seeking professional support. Also, remove yourself from places that have high levels of toxic and harmful fumes that may contribute to COPD.
If you suspect any of the symptoms of COPD or belong to any of its risk factors, speak with your doctor today.
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