You may or may not know that air pollutants and bad genes play a tiny part in causing COPD. However, the most common cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is tobacco. Namely, smoking it and if you smoke, work in a field that exposes you to certain chemical fumes or excess amounts of dust and are forty-years-old or older, you might be at risk for COPD. Although uncommon, cases of people developing COPD under the age of forty have been documented. It should be noted that if you have Asthma, you are at a much higher risk for developing COPD.
So how does COPD develop? Well, normally, we inhale oxygen into our lungs and from there it moves through all of the little branches of the lungs. However, long term exposure to smoking or chemical fumes etc. will begin to wear down the air sacs in the lungs, reducing their elasticity. The walls in between those air sacs can be completely destroyed as well. This leads to a thickening and inflammation of the airway walls. This triggers the lungs to produce an excess of mucus, which, in turn, can clog them.
It all starts with a cough. That cough gradually becomes a nagging cough before finally becoming a chronic one. However, in some cases, the cough might come and go or not exist at all. It slowly becomes harder to in hale and to exhale. Each taking longer to do than before. The tightening of the chest adds anxiety as well.
This reduction in air quality and quantity can lead to shortness of breath or not being able to breathe much at all, requiring the person to need an external oxygen supply or even hospitalization. Many sufferers describe the feeling as having an elephant or a rhinoceros sitting on their chest.
According to the National Institute of Health, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Millions every year are diagnosed and many people don’t even know they have it. COPD is a slow-developing disease and generally worsens with time, sometimes to the point of leaving a person unable to care for themselves.
Since there is no cure for COPD, one can only hope to manage the disease with exercise regimens, corticosteroids, bronchodilator inhalers and sometimes even surgery.
However, the most important way to improve your situation is to immediately stop smoking and get to your doctor. Your Doctor will run various blood tests and take x-rays to help diagnose COPD. It is also very important to receive a flu vaccine to avoid potential exacerbation.