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What is COPD caused by?

Smoking, air pollution, and more

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or as the medical community like to refer to it as COPD. COPD, a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties, is a term encompassing two conditions called chronic bronchitis and emphysema. When there is damage to the air sacs in the lung, it results in emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is characterised by long term inflammation of the airways in the lungs. COPD causes breathing problems as the narrowing of the airways makes it difficult for air to empty out of the lungs. Around the world, there are over 300 million cases of COPD. 

Here's a simpler way to break down COPD:

  • Chronic: refers to the long term nature of the condition 
  • Obstructive: the narrowing of the airways make it hard to breathe out quickly, also resulting in air getting trapped in your lungs
  • Pulmonary: affects the lungs
  • Disease: this is a medical condition

In normal healthy lungs, the airways are surrounded by muscle and elastic tissue that is springy in nature. These muscles and elastic tissues pull on the always to keep the airways open. In COPD, the airways narrow due to 3 things: the damage to the lung tissues so there is less pull on the airways, build-up of mucus blocks the airways, and the inflammation and swelling of the airway lining. 

Symptoms

Breathlessness and coughing are the common symptoms people with COPD present with. As the disease progresses, breathing might become more burdensome, declining over time and decreasing the limit of your normal day to day activities. 

The 4 main COPD symptoms are:

  • Persistent coughing with or without phlegms (similar to a smokers cough)
  • Shortness of breath (worsening on activity)
  • Infections (mainly chest infections)
  • Wheezing 

There are now COPD treatments available that help prevent the condition from progressing and worsening. However, even with treatment, patients with COPD might also go through periods of exacerbations such as during times of infections. 

Causes 

The damage to the lungs that is seen in COPD is usually due to long term use of harmful substances such as cigarette smoking. However, inhalations of smoking from other sources like passive smoking or air pollution can result in COPD. People working in jobs where they have increased exposure to dust, fumes and chemicals may go on to develop COPD. COPD can still develop in patients who have never smoked and this is likely due to a rare genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. These patients are more likely to develop COPD at a younger age. The mean age of COPD development in smokers is around 35 years old 

COPD treatment

As COPD is a chronic progressive lifelong condition, there is no cure available. However, there are medications that have been developed which can slow down the progression of the disease and alleviate the symptoms of COPD. 

COPD medications largely include steroid inhalers and some other medications to ease breathing. Dr Felix offers 3 COPD medications: CarbocisteineFostair and Trimbow. In order to purchase these medications, please fill out a consultation form online. This form will be reviewed by a trained professional and if deemed suitable for your condition, will be sent straight to your doorstep in plain discreet packaging. 

Other treatments include pulmonary rehabilitation of the lungs, a program of lung exercises and education to help COPD sufferers with their condition. For a small group of people, doctors might deem a lung transplant as an option. 

Stop smoking 

Smoking cessation is a major way to prevent COPD or slow down how fast the disease develops. It is highly recommended to stop smoking altogether, however, if this is difficult for you, cutting smoking down does also have its benefits. Dr Felix offers Champix, a medication used to help smoking cessation. Champix is a nicotine free medication that can help you manage the withdrawal effects and cravings you might have for nicotine when stopping smoking. The nicotine you smoke in your cigarettes stimulates receptors in your brain. Champix acts on these same receptors, but instead of stimulating them fully, the receptors are only partially activated. This helps you stop your cravings while also stopping them from being stimulated by nicotine. 

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