CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE: A SILENT RESPIRATORY PROBLEM
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What Is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a group of chronic lung disease that will get worse with time. It is incurable, but if caught early enough, it is treatable. More common terms for COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
With COPD, the lungs become inflamed. This inflammation decreases the amount of oxygen that can reach the body’s tissues. It also makes it more difficult for the body to get rid of carbon dioxide. COPD patients suffer from airflow blockage.
As noted on the pulmonology advisor website, COPD is the most common chronic pulmonary disorder, and the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.
COPD causes 3.17 million or 5% of deaths of any kind globally each year. It is estimated that there are approximately 175 million cases of COPD around the world.
90% of COPD cases occur in low and middle-income countries where effective prevention strategies are not as accessible as they are in other countries.
Why Is COPD Difficult To Detect?
Dr. Richard Chalk notes in Pulmonary Advisory that Spirometry, primary care misdiagnosis, and patient-related factors may be primarily responsible for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) misdiagnosis It is estimated that 20% of COPD cases are misdiagnosed in this way. Patients may also hold back critical information that would allow for a correct diagnosis.
When this occurs, the diagnosis might not be made in a timely manner and by the time a correct diagnosis does come, there could be significant lung damage that has already taken place.
Signs and Symptoms of COPD
Signs and symptoms of COPD include:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive phlegm or sputum production.
- Frequent respiratory infections.
- Pain upon taking a deep breath.
- Lips or fingernail beds tinted blue (cyanosis)
- Excessive fatigue
- Becoming easily winded with even the most minor activity
Stages of COPD
COPD has 4 stages, and early detection is key to the effectiveness of the treatment. Most treatment comes in the form of inhalers, medication, and nebulizers. In later stages, full-time oxygen will be necessary.
The stages of COPD are measured according to the results from spirometry, which measures your lung capacity, and two sets of tests that measure how much air can be expelled in a breath and what stage the disease is present. The four stages of COPD are classified as follows:
Stage 1: Lung function measures 80%. At this point, it is considered to be mild and the patient might not even notice the symptoms.
Stage 2: Lung function comes in at 50% to 80% and is considered moderate COPD. At this stage, the patient notices increased breathlessness upon exerting himself, the chronic cough becomes significantly worse, and mucus production is further increased.
Stage 3: Lung function is now 30% to 49%. In addition to the previous symptoms, fatigue becomes debilitating. Any activity at all can bring extreme shortness of breath. Exacerbation in the form of tightening of the airways increased mucus, and inflammation of the lungs are more frequent. COPD is considered to be severe.
Stage 4: Lung function lower than 30%. All previous symptoms are now worse. Confusion and depression may become an issue. Chest pain is frequent. The patient becomes easily disoriented and will begin to suffer morning headaches. Quality of life is impaired and any new exacerbation can be life-threatening. Surgery may be required to extract the damaged lung tissue.
The biggest factor for developing COPD is through cigarette smoking. One should never start smoking, but if they do smoke, quitting as soon as possible will be better for your respiratory health.
Avoiding lung irritants such as air pollution, chemical fumes, second-hand smoke, and dust can also help prevent COPD. If you are suspecting COPD or its symptoms, it is best to get rid of as many irritants in your home and life as possible and consult doctors providing COPD treatment.
Keeping your surroundings as clean as possible will keep potential irritants from entering your environment. If you work in an environment where chemical fumes are common, wear a mask while you work. By avoiding the various causes of COPD can lessen your chances of falling prey to it.
As we enter the new year, countries around the world are preparing to start mass vaccination in an effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple vaccine candidates have been approved by different health authorities worldwide, and some countries have already started vaccinating their citizens.
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