COPD – Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment



According to WHO, 10% of the world’s population suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is one of the leading causes of death, along with stroke and heart attack. However, people lack enough information and do not even suspect that they have such a disease.

COPD is a disease of the lungs and includes the elements chronic bronchitis and pulmonary emphysema. The first results in inflammation of the airways, leading to prolonged coughing and phlegm. Pulmonary emphysema is characterized by destruction of the elastic fibers of the lung alveoli, which leads to their permanent widening.

What can cause COPD?

Among the main risk factors causing COPD are:

  • Endogenous, depending on the human body;
  • Exogenous, environmentally dependent.

A main risk factor for COPD is smoking. Nearly 15% of smokers develop COPD. There are other causes such as air pollution, chronic respiratory infections, prolonged use of harmful substances, genetic predisposition, and more.

How does COPD typically develop?

The people who most often suffer from COPD are men over 50, and their complaints are:


As a rule, it is the first symptom and is a kind of protective reaction to help mechanically clear the lungs of various contaminants. It depends on the stages of the disease and can change its nature and intensity. When the disease exacerbates, the cough becomes stronger, more irritating and in stronger fits, and when the process subsides, it’s milder. It is chronic, seasonal, and intensifies mostly in the morning during the colder and wetter months, accompanied by phlegm.

Sputum production

It is quite common for respiratory organs to produce a small amount of secretion, which removes harmful particles and bacteria that have penetrated through the inhaled air. It is usually not excreted in the form of sputum. It is released when the bronchi are inflamed and the secretion is increased. In the presence of infection, it is purulent, and the color of the sputum – green, yellow, or gray.

Shortness of breath

It is normal for a person not to be aware of their breathing, but when it becomes difficult, a feeling of heaviness and suffocation appears in the chest area. With COPD, there is constant shortness of breath, while in asthma, for example, there are attacks. When the disease is in its final phase, the person’s condition is extremely severe, accompanied not only by shortness of breath, but also by helplessness and leads to disability. In addition, due to changes in connective tissue, it increases the risk of developing cancer.

Is there a cure for COPD?

Prevention and timely detection of COPD is extremely important. The main method of screening is a questionnaire that allow to identify at-risk patients. The diagnosis is made by a doctor after a detailed history and examination. The instrumental method of spirometry, which examines lung function, is then applied. In 1 sec. it is normal for a person to exhale 80% of the air they have inhaled, while with COPD, the amount is reduced.

There is no radical treatment for COPD, but there are medications that relieve symptoms and reduce exacerbations. The main goals of treatment are to reduce symptoms and prevent the risk of disease progression. The medicines included in the treatment are mainly:

  • Anti-inflammatory, usually corticosteroids;
  • Airway dilators used as needed or for long-term use.

Bronchodilators, second-line drugs, are administered by inhalation and help to improve gas exchange in the lungs, which reduces symptoms. Medications also make expectoration easier and make breathing easier. In case of deterioration of the general condition, antibiotics, water-salt solutions, etc. may be included.

Patients with COPD are advised to get the flu and anti-streptococcal vaccine. They are subject to monitoring and periodic examinations.

Prevention of COPD includes quitting smoking, timely treatment of inflammation of the respiratory tract, strengthening immunity, and avoiding contact with harmful substances from the air and the working environment.

If COPD sufferers follow their doctors’ prescriptions and cooperate with treatment, they can significantly improve their quality of life.

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