Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a condition that occurs when the lungs have become damaged in some way. The symptoms may not appear until the condition is extremely pronounced. Damage to the lungs can be caused by a variety of things including constant exposure to cigarette or other tobacco smoke, exposure to airborne contaminants, or other chronic upper respiratory conditions, like pneumonia or bronchitis. COPD can worsen over time, especially if the person continues to smoke or does not take the appropriate steps to protect their lungs from further damage.
COPD has many symptoms that will become more pronounced as the condition continues to progress. A few of the most common symptoms include wheezing, tightness of the chest, constant fatigue, chronic cough, frequent upper respiratory infections, shortness of breath, and an abundance of mucus in the lungs. When COPD is first diagnosed, the symptoms may be relatively minor. As the damage to the lungs increases, the obstructive nature of the disease can begin to cause more problems. The symptoms will, in turn, compound on themselves, causing the condition to worsen at a much faster pace.
COPD is treated in many ways, depending on the severity of the symptoms. In most cases, the lung damage that contributes to COPD is permanent. If a person stops the activity that is damaging the lungs, such as smoking, they may be able to slow the speed at which the COPD symptoms present themselves. Inhaled or oral steroids are often used to control the inflammation that often occurs during upper respiratory infections. Bronchodilators are also used to open the bronchial airways making breathing much easier. Oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation programs are also used to help maintain existing lung function and prevent the condition from getting any worse.
Emphysema is a pulmonary condition that worsens over time. Many people don't even know they have it until they go to the doctor because they lose their breath easily or have bronchitis or other health conditions. By the time the symptoms are noticeable, the condition may be advanced. Shortness of breath is the most prominent symptom. Because emphysema affects how well oxygen is circulated throughout the body, a person may notice a bluish tint to their fingers, toes, and lips. A person will tend to lose their breath after exerting even the smallest amounts of activity.
The most common types of treatment for emphysema includes pulmonary rehabilitation programs, supplemental oxygen, and nutritional support. Bronchodilators, antibiotics, and inhaled steroids are also common options. It is important to keep the airways open and unobstructed. If the condition has advanced to the point where damage has occurred within the lungs, supplemental oxygen may need to be provided around the clock. If a person is young enough to withstand the difficulties associated with the surgery, a lung transplant may be considered. Please contact Southern California Pulmonologists and Intensivists to schedule an appointment and determine which form of treatment is best for you.
Pulmonary disease may be inherited to a degree. Individuals who have a family history of poor lung health, may not be able to prevent conditions like asthma, chronic bronchitis, allergies, or emphysema. If a person has no family history of pulmonary disease, they may be able to dramatically reduce the risk of being diagnosed with emphysema by avoiding environmental pollutants, not smoking, avoiding areas that are heavy with smoke and heavy smells, and exercising regularly. Exercising not only strengthens muscles, it also keeps the lungs strong and functioning at normal levels.
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