COPD – Early Signs, Causes, and Treatments

COPD – Early Signs, Causes, and Treatments

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – Early Signs, Causes, and Treatments


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases.

Common types of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis (insert the link of bronchitis article).

The first condition – emphysema – is characterized by the destruction of the air sacs (i.e., alveoli) of the lungs, disrupting the normal flow of air out of the lungs.

Bronchitis, on the other hand, describes the active inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which get obstructed by excessive mucus secretion.

The primary cause of COPD is smoking, as it precipitates chronic exposure to chemical irritants that gradually destroy the structural integrity of the air sacs.

Unfortunately, there is no curative treatment for COPD; however, available treatments can improve symptoms and lower the risk of severe complications.

According to statistics, 30 million people in the United States have some form of COPD, with as many as 50% being unaware of it.

In this article, we will cover the causes, signs and symptoms, and treatment of COPD.

Causes of bronchitis

In developed countries, the single most influential risk factor for COPD is smoking. In fact, more than 90% of patients with COPD are either smokers or former smokers.

Additionally, COPD usually occurs after the age of 40 since smoking is an accumulative habit. Therefore, the longer you smoke, the higher your risk of developing COPD.

Other risk factors include cigar smoke, pipe smoke, and secondhand smoke.

Besides tobacco products, being exposed to chemicals in the workplace can also cause COPD. This mainly occurs in developing countries, where homes are poorly ventilated, forcing the families to inhale chemicals coming from the burning fuel.

Finally, having a family history of COPD increases your risk.

Note that there is a genetic predisposition to developing COPD, with an estimated 5% of people having an alpha-c-antitrypsin deficiency. As a result, the lung and liver tissues deteriorate over time.

Signs and symptoms of COPD

COPD is a chronic illness that makes breathing difficult. In the beginning, symptoms are usually mild, with short bouts of coughing and shortness of breath. As the destruction of the lung tissue progresses, you can expect more severe symptoms.

Early signs and symptoms of COPD include:

  • Occasional shortness of breath
  • Recurrent cough
  • Feeling that you need to clear your throat
  • Avoiding stairs and physical activity

As the lungs deteriorate further, COPD manifests with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath) even after mild exercise
  • Wheezing
  • Chronic cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Frequent respiratory tract infections

Treatment of COPD

The treatment of COPD mainly focuses on preventing exacerbations by prescribing bronchodilators (drugs that open up the airways).

Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD.

Takeaway message

COPD is a chronic illness characterized by the active destruction of the lung tissue. By far, smoking is the biggest cause of this disease.

Hopefully, this article addressed the topic of COPD in a simple manner.