COPD: What Causes it and What are the Symptoms?
A lung disease, COPD impacts people across the globe and causes millions of deaths, despite being preventable. Here are some symptoms of the disease and an overview of the causes.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is one of the leading causes of death among non-communicable diseases in India. For many years, the magnitude of COPD has been overlooked, with many people not understanding the symptoms or being unable to distinguish between this and other lung diseases. Now, medical professionals across the globe are aligned on the fact that COPD is a major burden on the healthcare industry, and more awareness needs to be generated about it.
Essentially, COPD is a mostly preventable lung disease that causes abnormalities in the airways of the lungs, disrupting the airflow. It can even destroy certain parts of the lung. COPD is actually used as a term to include two lung diseases: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The former leads to the destruction of air sacs found at the end of one’s lungs, while the latter is characterised by a chronic cough and excess phlegm due to the inflammation of one’s airways.
There are various symptoms of COPD to look out for:
- Chronic cough
- Breathlessness, especially while doing daily activities
- Excess phlegm
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest infections
If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. There are various tests that your doctor will carry out in order to see if you have COPD, and if so, suggest treatment options that can slow down the progression of COPD and relieve your symptoms. When caught early, lifestyle interventions can help immensely in ensuring that it doesn’t advance to the next stage.
COPD is caused by various factors, but smoking is the cause of a majority of the cases around the world. The harmful chemicals in the smoke impact the airways and lining of the lungs. Even exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of one developing COPD. In India, the burning of biomass and inhalation of those fumes can also lead to it. Our environment plays an important role, too, in determining whether one runs the risk of getting COPD: air pollution, fumes, dust and occupational factors (work-related exposure to chemicals) can all cause COPD—which is why monitoring one’s environment is extremely vital in preventing the disease. Another rare cause of the lung disease is a genetic disorder called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. This disorder results in the body being unable to produce enough alpha-1-antitrypsin, which can lead to lung diseases. In children, respiratory infections, prolonged exposure to harmful fumes and other factors that impact lung growth can lead to COPD.
Understanding these causes empowers individuals to take measures to protect themselves. To lessen the risk of developing COPD, one can:
- Quit smoking: As smoking is the primary cause of COPD, reducing it or stopping altogether as soon as possible can help protect your lungs from further damage.
- Know your environment: Whether it is at work or at home, see what the risk factors are. Are there any fumes in your workplace and inadequate protection against them? Is there a source of smoke at home? By recognising these aspects, you can create a safer environment for yourself and others.
At Seva At Home, we produce a wealth of free health information to help individuals and families live healthier, happier lives. This has been produced by independent research carried out by the Seva At Home team. This information is not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician for relevant medical diagnosis and advice.