long term (or frequently recurring)
blockage to air flow
refers to the lungs
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease (COPD), also known as chronic obstructive
lung disease (COLD), is an umbrella term used to
describe chronic lung diseases that are
characterized by progressive limitations of the
airflow into and out of the lungs, and increased
shortness of breath as the disease progresses.
COPD, an insidious disease which is often first
diagnosed after some of the lung capacity is
already lost, is usually not fully reversible. It
is possible to have early stages of COPD without
The predominant diseases that fall
under this "umbrella term" are:
Note: These two diseases are no longer
used as a direct part of the definition of
Other lesser known and less common
diseases occasionally included are:
- Refractory Asthma
||Shortness of breath
during normal activities
changes in your
||Colds that last
weeks instead of days
bouts of bronchitis
||Unable to keep up
activities with people of your same age
Many people who are at risk for COPD, easily
mistake their symptoms with excuses such as:
just out of shape. I keep catching these colds
from the kids (or others). I must have an
allergy. When I quit smoking, I'll be fine.
smoking is the main cause of COPD, other
factors such as environmental and industrial
pollutants can also result in COPD in someone who
has never smoked.
Smoking - Considered the most
common cause of COPD, it occurs most often
in people over 40 with a past or present
history of smoking. Smoking accounts for
over 80% of all those diagnosed with COPD,
and 90% of COPD related deaths.
Environmental - Less than 20% of people
diagnosed with COPD have never
smoked. COPD can also occur in
people who have had long-term exposure to
lung irritants. Exposure to environmental
and/or occupational elements such as
certain chemicals, dust, and fumes, as
well as heavy or long-term exposure to
secondhand smoke or other air pollutants
may also contribute to COPD.
Occupational dusts and chemicals (vapors,
Indoor air pollutions from some fuels used
for cooking and heating, especially in
poorly vented dwellings.
air pollution adds to the irritation of
the lungs caused by the inhaled particles,
although to what degree is unknown.
Genetic - In some people, COPD is caused
by a genetic condition known as alpha-1
antitrypsin, or AAT deficiency. While very
few people know they have AAT deficiency,
it is estimated that close to 100,000
Americans have it. People with AAT
deficiency can get COPD even if they have
never smoked nor had long-term exposure to
and Asthma - Allergens and
asthma can cause changes in the lungs and
airways that may lead to the development of
Nutrition - Poor nutrition can increase
the risk for dysfunction within the lungs.
Nutrients should come from natural sources
rather than supplements.
Periodontal Disease -
Recent studies have shown that patients
with periodontal disease are one and a
half times more likely to develop COPD
than those without periodontal disease. It
is believed that the bacteria that causes
periodontal disease can travel from the
mouth into the lungs, causing inflammation
Low Birth Weight - Poor nutrition during
fetal development resulting in smaller
dysfunctional lungs has been linked to the
development of COPD in later years.
infections in early childhood
also are associated with reduced lung
function and increased respiratory problems
in later years. These infections can
then lead to COPD.
The diagnosis for
COPD is easily made by measuring a person's
pulmonary function .The basic "standard" for
evaluating the severity of COPD is spirometry,
also known as the Pulmonary Function Test
(PFT). An early diagnosis is important, as
once the lung capacity is lost, it cannot be
measures the amount of air a person's lungs can
move in and out and at what rate. Done in a
doctors office or in a hospital, it is not
invasive nor painful. It consists of blowing
into a mouthpiece that is attached to a recording
device called a spirometer.