The progressive lung disorder is known collectively as a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most prevalent forms of these illnesses. Many people who suffer from COPD also have diabetes.
Emphysema is a lung disease that destroys the air sacs of the lungs, preventing normal exhalation. When you have bronchitis, your bronchial passages become inflamed and narrow, allowing mucus to accumulate. Estimates suggest that around 30 million Americans live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
There may be as many as 50% who are completely oblivious to the fact that they have it. In addition to increasing the likelihood of developing cardiac difficulties and experiencing an exacerbation of respiratory infections, untreated COPD can hasten the advancement of these conditions.
Symptoms of COPD
COPD makes breathing difficult. In the beginning, you may only experience mild symptoms, such as coughing fits and difficulty breathing. Breathing difficulties are a common complication and might become more constant as the disease advances.
Wheezing and chest tightness are possible, as is excessive sputum output. Acute exacerbations are severe episodes in particular persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
COPD often presents with relatively modest symptoms at first. They could easily be misdiagnosed as the common cold. There are a variety of warning signs, such as:
- Slight but persistent cough requiring frequent throat clearing, most noticeable first thing in the morning; occasional shortness of breath; notably after exercise
- You might start making minor adjustments, like missing workouts or avoiding the stairs.
A person's symptoms may become severe with time. Damage to the lungs can cause a variety of symptoms.
- Wheezing, a type of louder breathing, especially during exhale, shortness of breath even after a minor effort like walking up a flight of steps
- Pain in the chest
- Persistent hacking cough, with or without phlegm production
- Daily phlegm clearance is required
- Recurrent respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu
- Lack of energy
Symptoms of advanced COPD may also include:
- Excessive bloating of the lower extremities (feet, ankles, or legs)
- Reduced weight
If you smoke cigarettes or are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke, your symptoms will likely be far more severe.
Structure of the Lungs
Lungs are spongy lobes located within the chest and shielded by the ribcage. When a person takes a deep breath, the air travels down the trachea (windpipe) and into the bronchi, two tubes that supply one lung each. The bronchi branch off into the smaller bronchioles, and that branch off into the smaller air sacs called alveoli.
Each of your alveoli is packed with tiny capillaries that facilitate the constant exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. A small layer of moisture allows oxygen molecules to disperse and travel from the air sac to the circulatory system.
Blood that has been oxygenated is pushed out to the rest of the body by the heart. Simultaneously, carbon dioxide in the blood travels via the same film of moisture from the capillaries to the air sacs. We exhale the carbon dioxide along with our breath.
How COPD Affects Lung Function?
Emphysema patients have impaired airflow due to damaged alveoli and bronchi. Due to being weakened and ruptured, the air sacs cannot adequately transfer oxygen from the air to the blood. If the condition worsens and more air sacs are damaged, you may experience shortness of breath even at rest.
Inflammation of the bronchi is known as bronchitis. For optimal health, the lungs create only a tiny quantity of fluid, but chronic bronchitis causes an excess of this fluid to be produced. The result is a productive and continuous coughing fit (producing mucus or phlegm).
Breathing difficulties from COPD usually worsen so gradually that patients are unaware of their worsening condition. Before the onset of severe symptoms, the lungs may have already sustained significant damage.
The condition of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cannot be assessed with a single diagnostic tool. Symptoms, the findings of a physical examination, and the results of diagnostic tests all contribute to a final diagnosis. Be as thorough as possible in describing your symptoms when you visit the doctor. Communicate with your healthcare provider if you suspect:
- You have a higher risk of developing COPD if you smoke, have a smoke, or are exposed to lung irritants in the workplace, or if you breathe in excessive secondhand smoke
- A medical issue affecting your breathing, such as asthma or another respiratory disorder
- You are on medication, whether over-the-counter or prescribed,
- Tests and examinations
During the physical exam, your doctor will listen to your breathing with a stethoscope. Your doctor may decide to order more testing based on the information you have provided, including the following:
- Spirometry is a non-invasive technique used to evaluate respiratory health. To use the spirometer, you will need to take a deep breath and then blow into a tube.
- Medical scans, such as an X-ray or CT of the chest. These pictures can give doctors a clear picture of your heart, blood vessels, and lungs.
- It's time for a blood gas analysis. A blood sample is drawn from an artery and analyzed to determine your hemoglobin, carbon dioxide, and oxygen saturation levels.
- Asthma, restrictive lung disease and heart failure are among the conditions that might mimic COPD, so these exams are crucial for ruling them out.