Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is characterized by obstruction of the airflow into and out of the lungs leading to shortness of breath, cough and sputum production. It is a progressive disease which often leads to a continued decrease in lung function over time. COPD is also known as Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease (COAD).
When you breathe in, each air sac fills up with air like a small balloon as they are elastic in nature. Similarly, when you breathe out, the air sacs deflate as the air goes out. The air sacs if stretched out are almost the size of a tennis court.
In a person suffering from COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of any of the following reasons:
The airways and air sacs lose its elasticity.
The walls between the air sacs are destroyed.
The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed.
The airways make abnormally more mucus thus clogging them.
Obstruction of airflow may result from either of the two types of COPD:
Emphysema: It is a condition characterized by damaged air sacs (alveoli).
Chronic Bronchitis: it is characterized by inflammation of the airway track.
Cigarette smoking: it is one of the major causes of COPD.
Environment: Heavy exposure to environmental pollution and poor ventilation at home may cause COPD. Use of wood and other fuel to burn for cooking is often a cause, especially among women.
Occupational exposure: Certain occupations like coal mining, welding, etc may gradually lead to the development of COPD.
Genetics: Genetic makeup of an individual may also play a role in developing COPD.
Symptoms include the following:
Shortness of breath
Bluish discolouration of the skin
Pulmonary function test
Dr. Sai Praveen Haranath, MBBS, MPH, FCCP,
Consultant Intensivist & Pulmonologist,
Apollo Health City, Hyderabad,
Chair-Disaster Response Network Steering Committee,
Member-Occupational & Environmental Diseases Network Steering committee