COPD is the abbreviation for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is a chronic inflammation of the airways where lung tissue is damaged or destroyed. Once COPD is diagnosed, it is incurable. The airways can become inflamed as a reaction to external triggers. The airway walls are covered with scar tissue as a result of the damage which leads to loss of elasticity and narrowing of the airway. As a consequence, COPD patients suffer from increased breathlessness and/or tightness in the chest.
Around 80% of the COPD patients has a history of cigarette smoking or still smokes. This is an important reason for developing COPD. Tabaco smoke is full of toxic components that are able to damage the airways.
Stop smoking is an important step in treating COPD. When a patient continues to smoke, the situation will deteriorate.
Also, inhalation of hazardous substances or small particle air pollution might cause COPD, e.g. mine workers have a higher risk on developing COPD. Although it is rare, family history of COPD might also be a risk factor.
Most common symptoms are shortness of breath, uncomfortable breathing, fatigue and coughing. Early stage COPD is difficult to recognize. It is crucial to initiate treatment early, in order to prevent further damage of the airways. Quality of life will deteriorate less or even improve.
The most important goal of COPD treatment consists of improving quality of life. Discontinue smoking, sufficient exercising and healthy food can be of great importance. If these life style interventions remain insufficient in controlling symptoms, drugs are available to relieve symptoms. Bronchodilators provide more air. If the airways are inflamed, anti-inflammatory agents can be added to the treatment.