Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

is one of the progressive types of lung disease which cause breathing difficulties as it advances. This is progressive in nature because it gets worse as it advances. There are two main types of this lung disease. One is ‘chronic bronchitis’ and the other one is ‘Emphysema’.

Chronic bronchitis:

This is a type of chronic inflammation of ones bronchi (passage that takes air to the lungs). This is clinically known as persistent cough which produces sputum.


  • Tobacco smoking
  • Long term exposure to certain fumes or gases at ones work place
  • Second hand smoking (heavy exposure)
  • Being exposed to cooking fire smoke with less ventilation facilities
  • Some influenza viruses could also cause this such as influenza A and B


  • Cough:

    This is the most common symptom of this particular type of cancer. It may either be dry or produce phlegm. Especially if the lung and the lower respiratory tract are infected, then there would be a significant amount of phlegm produced. In addition to that, you may also have symptoms of pneumonia.

  • This cough might even last for two weeks or more than that, causing abdominal muscles and chest to become sore. In some severe cases, as a result of severe coughing, one might just faint.
  • Muscular tightness along with inflammation of airways often cause wheezing, leaving the patient with shortness of breath.
    If you are experiencing asthmatic bronchitis then you might have wheezing combined with shortness of breath as symptoms, in addition to the above symptoms.


The diagnosis involves a thorough physical examination by your doctor. In addition to that, the following tests could also be used:

  • Spirometry:

    This test helps to measure the largest volume of air that could be breathed out in one second.

  • Blood test:

    Blood sample could be taken from artery to check the oxygen level in blood.

  • Chest X-Ray:

    Helps to see some of the signs such as expanded lungs, retrosternal airspace increase and flattened diaphragm.


According to COPD international, this could easily be characterized as the slow destruction of alveoli. Alveoli are the air sacs that look like grape and function as the exchanger of oxygen for carbon dioxide.

This small air sac becomes unable to either completely deflate or inflate when it gets affected by emphysema. This is not a reversible disease. However, it could be controlled through proper medications, good nutrition and exercise.
If the cause is smoking, which is the reason in most cases, the small airways that join these small airbags get damaged and they lose their walls’ elasticity.

Emphysema patients usually lose

50 to 70 percent of lung function

at the time when they start having symptoms.


  • Smoking
  • Chemical (the ones that helps to protect our lungs from both damage and infection) imbalance
  • Inheritance (rarely)


Earliest symptoms:

  • Productive cough
  • Dyspnea:

    shortness of breath

  • Respiratory infection
  • Sensation of breathlessness
  • Tightness across patient’s chest
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anorexia
  • The above symptoms are mild in the beginning and they get worse as the disease advances.

Final symptoms:

  • Barrel-Shaped Chest:

    In the advanced stages, the chest of the patient becomes barrel shaped. Over inflation of ones lungs cause this.

  • Breathing difficulty:

    In the very end stages, patient would have breathing difficulty and would have to use extra muscles to breathe. Patient might even have to use his/her neck, and shoulder muscles while breathing.

  • Weight Loss:

    People lose a lot of weight due to the fact that they use extra muscles.

  • Cyanosis:

    This is a symptom where a patient’s fingernails or fingertips turn blue due to lack of oxygen in blood.

  • Right-Heart Failure:

    During the very end stages, the heart stops functioning well for some patients. The right side is the one that pumps blood into ones lungs. Due to the extra work it has to do, it fails first.

Diagnosis and treatment:

Pulmonary Function Testing (PET):

This test specifically measures the functionality of your lungs, as to how well your lungs take or release air using some breathing maneuvers. Depending on the results, your doctor would be able to determine the efficiency of your lungs.

Chest X-Ray:

This is specifically used to test and see if you are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis. It also helps to rule out other speculations.

High Resolution Computed Tomography (HRCT):

This special type of scan helps to obtain lungs’ high resolution images.

Sputum Examination:

This analysis of cells in ones sputum is done in order to ascertain the causes of lung problems.

Arterial Blood Gases Analysis:

This helps to determine how effectively your lungs could transfer oxygen into ones bloodstream, as well as how well it removes carbon dioxide from it.

Treatment of Emphysema according to University of California San Francisco website


One should keep in mind that the following treatment methods are meant to give relief from emphysema symptoms and slow down the progression of emphysema. For patients who smoke, it is important that they quit smoking first.

Medications used:

  • Bronchodilator medications:

    These are inhaled or orally taken. Once taken, they help to relieve the symptoms by opening up the air ways in the lungs.

  • Steroids:

    Steroids are taken as an aerosol spray. Once inhaled, it could ease the symptoms that are related to asthma and bronchitis.

  • Antibiotics:

    These help to fight infections.

  • Vaccines:

    Annual flu shots are recommended for those who are suffering from emphysema.

Apart from that the following therapies and surgeries are also used:

  • Oxygen Therapy
  • Surgery or Lung Transplant
  • Protein Therapy

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