Chronic Obstructive Pulminary Disease (COPD) might be something you associate with long-term cigarette use; however, COPD does not only strike smokers. In truth anyone can suffer from COPD and so watching for its symptoms is important to anyone with respiratory problems.
What is COPD?
COPD is actually one or more of its three more specific forms, emphysema, chronic asthma, and chronic bronchitis. COPD sufferers who have a combination of all three conditions may at different times be labeled as having just the one or other specific condition. This is due to the symptoms that each condition manifests during a period of exacerbation being somewhat different from one another. But the effects of COPD over a long period can be quite severe if all of the problems are not properly addressed and treated.
What role does cigarette smoking play in developing COPD?
Though non-smokers do sometimes develop COPD that does not mean that smoking is not a significant factor in COPD. As many as nine in ten COPD sufferers have past or current cigarette smoking in their medical history. For cigarette smokers the risk of COPD occurring is greatly increased compared to non-smokers but even after COPD becomes a problem quitting cigarette smoking can still improve the patient’s health and reduce the risk of premature death.
Are children and others exposed to second hand smoke at risk?
The exact role of second hand smoke in people who develop COPD without smoking cigarettes is somewhat inconclusive but studies have shown that, as common sense would dictate, nothing good comes of people breathing second hand cigarette smoke. In particular, children who live with parents who smoke around them are more likely to suffer from asthma as well as frequent respiratory infections.
Is family history a factor?
Though rare, there is a genetic precursor for COPD. This inherited condition results in a deficiency of a protein which is essential in proper lung functions, alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT).
What are common symptoms of COPD?
COPD symptoms can vary according to which of the three major conditions are most present in the patient and how far progressed the disease has become. With emphysema struggling for breath is common, especially during physical exertion such as running or climbing stairs. Chronic bronchitis typically produces symptoms similar to infections and in some cases may actually result in secondary infections. Coughing with mucus discharge are commonplace symptoms. This cough, among regular cigarette smokers is aptly referred to as smoker’s cough. In some cases it may be accompanied by wheezing. In advanced COPD blood may be coughed up alone or with sputum. As the disease progresses oxygen may be reduced to a level in the blood that causes the skin to take on a bluish tint.
Are progressively damaged lungs the necessary end result of COPD?
COPD does not necessarily have to lead to significant damage of the lungs. If detected early and treated with oxygen, medication, and other therapies and with proper cooperation from the patient, COPD can be managed in such a way as to limit the progression of the disease. For smokers the most important first step is to talk with a doctor about quitting smoking.