COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a chronic disease that impairs the lungs. It is a progressive disease that does can not be completely cured however preventative methods and treatments exist. Smoking and the consumption of all types of tobacco are the most important risk factors for COPD. A link between exposure to dust and smoke and COPD has also been established. Burning wood or turf for warmth or cooking in insufficiently ventilated areas, burning coal in an open fire or heating stoves that do not function properly can cause high levels of air contamination. Any history of exposure to risk factors, coughing, expectorating and shortness of breath when moving should be taken into account for the diagnosis of COPD.

Lung infections and impairment due to exposure to COPD risk factors cause obstruction in the airway which usually is progressive. Chronic airway obstruction and obstructive bronchiolitis caused by repetitive infections are characterized by destruction in the lung tissue (emphysema). This causes thickening of the airways, increased amounts of phlegm in the airway lumen and obstructive bronchiolitis.

Emphysema is the permanent over-inflation of the alveoli where the main exchange of oxygen and carbon-dioxide occurs. This over-inflation due to destruction of the alveoli is the main cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath.

The main goal of the treatment of COPD is to stop the progression of the disease, increase exercise tolerance, prevent and treat complications and reduce disease related mortality.

Reducing risk factors make the first step of the treatment. The most important action is to prevent exposure to tobacco products in order to prevent further lung damage. It is also important to prevent exposure to pollutants in the home or professional environment.

It is important to explain to patients that COPD is treatable and share with them details regarding the diseases, the effects of the medication and how to use them, the importance of exercising and patient physician relationship. Pharmacological treatment methods are used in order to prevent and control disease symptoms, reduce the severity and frequency of attacks, improve the patient's condition and increase exercise tolerance.

The treatment of COPD exacerbations is also important. COPD exacerbations are characterized as much severe instances of shortness of breath, coughing, and expectorating compared with the onset of illness. They occur unexpectedly and require a dosage update.

Tracheobronchial tree infections and air pollution are the main causes of exacerbations. However the causes can still not be determined for one out of three severe attacks.
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