World COPD Day is 20th November and it’s all about spreading awareness about. What is COPD? It stands for “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”. Not many people are aware of the same and hence COPD day falls on every third Wednesday of November every year. In this article, we will be knowing all we ought to know about this disease and how severe it can be. Before proceeding further, let’s have a simple understanding of this term.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes airflow obstruction from the lungs along with symptoms like breathing difficulty, cough, wheezing and mucus generation. People are prone to have COPD if they have too much exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often by cigarette smoke. Therefore, people also call it smokers’ lung disease.
How COPD is affecting everyday life?
In the year 2017, COPD was the second-highest cause of death in India after heart problems and is projected to be the third leading cause of death across the world by 2020. With age, the pulmonary functions begin to decline and if COPD is left without treatment during the initial stage, it becomes very difficult to handle it at the later stages.
Air pollution is acting like a termite that may not be an immediate concern for people today as the consequences include only coughing and burning eyes.
Delhi air pollution
Delhi, at present, is the talk of the nation for weeks as many emergencies have been declared due to pollution and high AQI (air quality index). Overnight the pollution level increased ranging between 400-500 which is considered ‘severe’ and ‘hazardous’. A lot of patients are coming to hospitals for respiratory and breathing complications.
There are a lot of complaints regarding watery eyes, cough, breathing difficulty, allergies, exacerbation of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There is an alarming level of pollution with authorities declaring an unprecedented public health emergency in New Delhi especially schools and public places.
Symptoms of COPD
Symptoms of COPD are generally noticed after it does much damage to the lungs. But some common symptoms which we generally do not heed are as follows:
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
- The blueness of the fingernails or lips
- Unintended weight loss
- Excess mucus in the lungs in the morning
- Swelling in ankles, feet or legs
- A chronic cough (Also Read: 9 Doctor-Approved Home Remedies for Dry Cough )
- Breathing with whistling or rattling sound
- Heaviness in chest
What exactly happens to the lungs in COPD?
- Windpipe carries air to the lungs
- The oxygen you inhale passes to the bloodstream
- You exhale carbon dioxide at the same time
- COPD causes the lungs to lose their natural elasticity of small vessels
- Due to this, some air remains in the lungs while you exhale
Causes of air passage obstruction/ Risk factors
Smoking damages the air sacs, the lining of the lungs, and other airways responsible for carrying air to different parts of the body and bloodstream. This damages the lungs and finds difficulty in moving air in and out.
Cigar, pipe smoke: ‘Inhaling the smoke of cigars and current pipes heavily might cause lung cancer, oral cavity, larynx and esophagus dysfunction.
Long term air pollution
Polluted air contains tiny particles called irritants which damage the lungs as they obstruct and distort their natural functioning of carrying the air inward and outward by being an obstruction.
Longer exposure to fumes
Certain fumes and dust exposures at the workplace make you prone to have COPD as it contains some harmful substances like cadmium dust and fumes, grain and flour dust that are harmful to lungs.
There is inflammation and narrowing down of bronchial tubes. As a result, lungs produce more mucus which further blocks the narrowed tubes and you develop a chronic cough trying to clear the airways.
This disease causes the destruction of fragile walls and elasticity of small blood vessels impairing your airflow out of the lungs and ultimately collapsing the airways when you exhale.
Only 20-30% of smokers develop COPD, so rest others might develop it because of genetics or family history.
Deficiency of AAT
Alpha-1- Antitrypsin is a protein that forms in the liver and protects the lungs by being secreted into the bloodstream. 1% of people are likely to get COPD due to their deficiency.
People with asthma who smoke
The combination of an asthma patient and a smoker increases the risk of getting COPD even more.
COPD mostly develops after you cross 40 years of age.
- Respiratory infections: Respiratory tract gets infected and causes more and more mucus to produce which causes difficulty in breathing. Cold causes further damage to the lung tissue.
- Lung cancer: One must quit smoking to reduce the risk of lung cancer due to COPD.
- Heart diseases: Several heart ailments may develop due to chronic cough and breathing problems.
- Depression: You might feel depressed, helpless or sad as COPD will hamper your general interests of getting indulged in physical activities or fun activities that require a lot of stamina and rapid breathing. Consult your doctor and talk to people if you feel so. (Also Read: Depression or Bad Mood? Know how to cope up with depression )
- Pulmonary hypertension: High blood pressure in the lung arteries is called pulmonary hypertension which can be a result of COPD.
- Quit smoking: As we know the prior cause of COPD, we know that the only best prevention method is to quit smoking now. There are a straight way and procedure to follow to get rid of some risks many times. The same is the case here.
- Use respiratory protective equipment if necessary: Health is wealth. You must talk to your supervisor if you experience toxic fumes to irritants in the workplace. Such particulate matter is very harmful to your lungs and can lead to COPD.
Prevention is better than cure.
COPD is treatable with the wholesome knowledge of the symptoms and prevention. Connect to your nearest ENT specialist and understand what to do to prevent COPD. We must know that the environment we breathe in and the habits we own are not really conducive for long and healthy life. World COPD Day – 20th November, must be all about spreading awareness among people at the workplace or in general about the fatal effects and repercussions of the chronic cough that people often undermine or overlook.
Look after your precious health! Live long and spread the word!
Also Read: Foods To Eat And Avoid In Case Of Cough