COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD encompasses two lung diseases – Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis. Frequently both of these lung diseases occur together so the term COPD began to be used.
The word “obstructive” describes this disease very well. People with COPD have difficulty breathing and it can feel like something is interfering with their oxygen flow.
Here are some alarming statistics about COPD from the American Lung Association:
- COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in America, claiming the lives of 122,283 Americans in 2003.
- Smoking is the primary risk factor for COPD. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of COPD deaths are caused by smoking.
- Female smokers are nearly 13 times as likely to die from COPD as women who have never smoked.
- Male smokers are nearly 12 times as likely to die from COPD as men who have never smoked.
- Chronic bronchitis is the inflammation and eventual scarring of the lining of the bronchial tubes. When the bronchi are inflamed and/or infected, less air is able to flow to and from the lungs and a heavy mucus or phlegm is coughed up. This inflammation eventually leads to scarring of the lining of the bronchial tubes.
- Once the bronchial tubes have been irritated over a long period of time, excessive mucus is produced constantly, the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes thickened, an irritating cough develops, and air flow may be hampered, the lungs become scarred.
- Emphysema begins with the destruction of air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs where oxygen from the air is exchanged for carbon dioxide in the blood. Damage to the air sacs is irreversible and results in permanent “holes” in the tissues of the lower lungs.
- As air sacs are destroyed, the lungs are able to transfer less and less oxygen to the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath. The lungs also lose their elasticity, which is important to keep airways open. The patient experiences great difficulty exhaling.
Now for some good news from COPD International:
- Although there has not been much progress in a cure for COPD it is possible to control your symptoms and live a longer life.
- Most importantly is that if you smoke, stop!
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet.
- Stay on your medications and keep your doctor appointments.
- With you doctor’s approval, exercise.
- Learn about your disease so that you know when to seek treatment and how to prevent infections.
COPD International offers a chat room and message boards, a program to help you to stop smoking, a Keep In Touch (KIT) program for people living alone to receive emails every day, a newsletter, a library of information and many more services. I was really impressed with what their unique services.
Thank you to the American Lung Association and COPD International for the information in this post. Please take the time to learn more about how to be diagnosed, the risk factors and how to stay as healthy as possible if you’ve already been diagnosed.