COPD “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”
What is COPD “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
– Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease “COPD” is a common, “lung” disease that is characterized by persistent airway and/or alveolar abnormalities leading to a limitation of airflow caused by a significant exposure to noxious particles or gases. The “Chronic” airflow limitation is caused by a mixture of respiratory diseases “e.g: Obstructive Bronchiolitis, emphysema…”
What causes COPD?
Around the world, the most common risk factor that increases your chance of contracting COPD is “Tobacco Smoking”. Other risk factors that are now clinically proven to be linked to COPD are associated with exposure to airborne particulates such as “pipe smoking, cigar, water pipe / bong, marijuana smoking, airborne exposure to smoke…etc” Non smokers may also develop COPD due to a continual long-term exposure to noxious gases & particles, combined with a variety of factors like genetics, airway hyper-responsiveness and poor lung growth during childhood.
Risk Factors also include:
Etiology “the cause, set of causes, or manner of causation”
- Inhaling Pollutants “Indoor / Outdoor”
- Occupational Exposures “Biomass Fuel / Natural Gas / Particulate Dust”
- Genetic factors “Hereditary deficiency of alpha-1 antitypic AATD”
Pathobiology “The branch of biology that deals with pathology”
- Impaired Lung Grown “Growth Disorder / Disease”
- Accelerated Decline in lung tissue “Disease”
- Lung Injury
- Lung & Systemic Inflammation “Disease”
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Asthma & Airway Hyper-Reactivity
Pathology “the science of the causes and effects of diseases”
- Small Airway disorders or abnormalities “Disease / Disorder”
COPD should be considered by all medical practitioners for a patient who is expressing dyspnea “difficult or labored breathing”, chronic cough or sputum production, and/or history of exposure to risk factors as mentioned above. Other factors to consider include recurrent lower respiratory tract infections, family members with diagnosed COPD and a history of risk factors as mentioned. A detailed medical history must be gone through with the patient and “Spirometry” should be tested to ensure a proper diagnosis. “Please consult your local physician for more information”
Differential Diagnosis “differentiating between two or more conditions”
Asthma verses COPD, a major differential diagnosis is Asthma, and in many patience with chronic asthma, a clear distinction from COPD is not possible using current medical imaging and physiological testing techniques. In patience with chronic Asthma, current medical management of COPD verses Asthma is similar and grants relief for the sufferer from symptoms. However there are some key points that can help separate Asthma from COPD like “Onset in Mid-Life vs. Onset early in life often childhood” or “Symptoms slowly progress and worsen where Asthma would have symptoms that vary widely from day to day” Some other common illness with the same symptoms also fall into Differential Diagnoses with more clear seperations like “Congestive Heart Failure, Bronchiectasis, Tuberculosis, Obliterative Bronchialitis & Diffuse Panbronchiolitis”.
The goal of a COPD assessment are to determine the severity of airflow restrictions, its impact on the patients health and the risk of future events that could lead to serious complications leading to hospitalization or even death.
Please consult your physician if you believe you have COPD and request full “Spirometry / breathing test / lung function test” testing.
Symptoms of COPD
- Feeling short of breath while resting or when doing physical activity
- Cough “Chronic”
- Mucus production that does not go away
In some patients, COPD can also cause the oxygen levels within the blood to become low. If this occurs, a person can be given supplemental oxygen to counter the symptoms. Breathlessness should not be confused with low oxygen levels. People with COPD can experience shortness of breath or have a hard time breathing even if they have good oxygen levels. Therefore, breathlessness is not always a good guide for weather you need to use oxygen.
To formulate a proper treatment plan, please consult your physician after diagnosis. Some main points your physician will go over with you are, “For Smokers, this includes Tobacco, Cannabis, Vaping, Cigars, all inhaled vapors or particles”, the first step is to “Stop Smoking”. To aid in the cessation of smoking, programs, medications and therapy have been made available to all forms of smoking addictions being from either tobacco or cannabis, “Please consult your physician for more details on what works for you”.
Medications may also be prescribed “by your physician” to relieve symptoms of COPD and prevent symptom flare ups that can lead to further loss of lung function.
Proper Nutrition & staying in good physical shape are also important not just for symptom relief, but also for your quality of life. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs offer supervised exercise and education for those with breathing problems and should be a part of a comprehensive treatment plan for anyone with COPD.
Many communities also offer support groups that can provide education and opportunities for COPD patience and their caregivers to share their experience with other people with COPD and families.
In some cases, surgical procedures such as a lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplantation may be an option to consider. Please refer to your physician for this advanced treatment.
What is Emphysema?
“Answer” – Emphysema is a condition in which the air sacs of the lungs are damaged and enlarged, causing breathlessness.
Can COPD be fatal?
“Answer” – Yes / No, Normally COPD is not Fatal, however left untreated and without proper attention it can worsted to the point of potentially fatal lung damage that can leave very few options. Please consult your Physician before symptoms worsen.
Can COPD be treated?
“Answer” – Yes, Please consult your physician for testing, treatments and plants to put in place to help increase your chance of success
Is Smoking Cannabis as bad as Tobacco for COPD?
“Answer” – Yes, all inhaled smokes, vapors, particulates that can affect the airflow to your lungs / heart / brain can have an adverse effect on lung function and eventually after exposure will lead to long lasting damage or side effects.
Will COPD ever go away?
“Answer” – NO, COPD is a lifelong condition, the lungs have been damaged and can never fully return to normal. Therefore the breathlessness and fatigue may never go away entirely, but people can learn to manage their condition and continue to lead a fulfilling life with steps to be proactive like, stop all forms of smoking, take medication regularly and attend pulmonary rehabilitation.
If your symptoms get worse at any time or you notice new symptoms from the list above, call your doctor or Health Link “811 in Alberta”. You can also call the “Health Link Alberta 24/7 if you have questions about C.Diff or any of the information in this handout.
This information was taken From Center of Disease Control “CDC” (COPD Guide) Information slip, American Thoracic Society, Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease “GOLD GUIDE”, National Institute of Health COPD Action Plan Guide, University of Michigan COPD Assessment Guide for Medical Professionals.
“This material is for information purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction, and/or treatment. If you have questions, speak to your doctor or appropriate healthcare provider.”
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