Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a major cause of disability and death due to obstruction of the airways in the lungs which become less elastic, clogged and unable to fulfill their function of transporting oxygen. In the early stages, a person with COPD may simply think she is tired but symptoms gradually get worse until they noticeably limit the person's ability to function in daily life. The person can take steps to help avoid worsening the symptoms by ensuring they get proper nutrition and sleep, avoiding people with colds and flu and having an annual flu vaccine. It's essential to avoid smoking or a smoke-filled or polluted environment.
The person with COPD will notice difficulty in breathing or a chronic cough. At first the difficulty is limited to walking, exercise or other physical activities. However, in later stages, breathing difficulties occur even when the person is not active. He will be more tired, will wheeze and cough and begin to produce phlegm or mucus with the cough. The illness, its limitations and the prognosis can cause depression.
As the condition progresses, the person with COPD will require therapy to improve the ability to breathe. Respiratory stimulants and bronchodilators can ease symptoms and help treat the inflammation. Eventually, oxygen therapy is added. Glucocorticosteroids can be prescribed in oral or IV form. In the latter stages, ventilation will help deliver oxygen by means of an oxygen mask or a even intubation into the lungs.
Even if the lung condition has not progressed, symptoms can become exacerbated due to pollutants in the environment, other respiratory illnesses such as a cold or flu. Although antibiotics will not help COPD, they can be used to treat an underlying bacterial infection.
In the latter stages of COPD, complications can occur including diet and exercise-related problems such as weight loss, osteoporosis and muscle atrophy. Advanced cases can result in respiratory failure and oxygen depletion with excess carbon dioxide in the blood causing headaches or dizziness.
As the heart works harder to pump blood, it can suffer serious damage resulting in pulmonary hypertension, heart disease or heart failure. The extremities may suffer from edema in ankle swelling. As the condition worsens in latter stages, the person may require home care or be hospitalized. The rate at which COPD gets worse varies between individuals. However, COPD becomes worse gradually worse over time and can lead to death. COPD is among the major causes of death in the U.S. and worldwide.
Disclaimer: The information provided in MDJunction is not a replacement for medical diagnosis, treatment, or professional medical advice.
In case of EMERGENCY call 911 or 1.800.273.TALK (8255) to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Read more.