Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD)

What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long term and progressive lung and airway disease. Tobacco smoking is the main risk factor. Toxins in cigarette smoke damages the airways and the lungs, making them less elastic and the airways tend to close up on breathing air out. Patients will have difficulty breathing out waste gas (carbon dioxide) from the body. Patients usually present with chronic cough with sputum production, progressive shortness of breath and reduction in exercise capacity.

  • Smoking is the main risk factor. It leads to damage and inflammation of the airways.
  • People who lack a specific enzyme (alpha-1 antitrypsin) for protecting the lung will have a greater risk of developing emphysema.

Symptoms of COPD include:

  • Blue tinge to the skin due to reduced oxygen supply
  • Chronic coughing
  • Coughing up phlegm
  • Shortness of breath on exertion
  • Chest tightness
  • Swelling of ankles
  • Weight loss

COPD is not curable but the condition is preventable, treatable and could be controlled well.

  • Cessation of smoking – the MOST important measure to slow the progression of COPD and increase the chance of survival
  • Medications – including inhaled bronchodilators and/or inhaled glucocorticosteroids to help open the airways, and antibiotics and steroids to treat exacerbations
  • Annual influenza vaccination as well as vaccination against pneumococcus (most common cause of pneumonia)
  • Home oxygen therapy – this will help to relieve the long term oxygen insufficiency in some patients with severe COPD
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation – including exercise training, patient education, dietary guidance and psychological counselling
  • Lung volume reduction technique (bronchoscopic or surgical) to isolate or to remove the diseased part of the lung for some COPD patients with specific pattern of emphysema

  • Cardiac disorders including ischemic heart disease, heart failure and atrial fibrillation
  • Respiratory infections including pneumonia
  • Lung Cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Anxiety and Depression

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