Background information

COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung disease that makes one difficulty in breathing.

It is a long term disease which generally gets worse over a period of time.

It is characterized by inflammation and severe limitation of airflow in and out in the lungs.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is term used to describe a group of breathing conditions. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease essentially comprises two components i.e Chronic bronchitis and Emphysema.

Chronic bronchitis is essentially a presentation of productive cough on a chronic basis whereas emphysema is talking more about the destruction of the lung parenchyma and what that can do over time is it can cause the lung to be hyper inflated and this is due to the air being trapped inside.

Many person with COPD may have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. A few one may have both asthma and COPD.

The most common COPD cause are due to the smoking and apart from this, there is a genetic component too.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Long-term passive smoking or irritants such as air pollution, dust or workplace noxious gases or wood smoke can also contribute to COPD.

Symptoms of COPD

Some of the common COPD symptoms are, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness especially with exercise and an ongoing cough often with a lot of mucus.

As the COPD symptoms progresses, the breathing requires much more energy and it can get harder to exercise or do routine activities or climbing stairs. All these may lead to fatigue, weight loss and muscle loss.

People with COPD can experience numerous types of symptoms which depends on it stage. Different stages of COPD include a range from mild to moderate to severe.

At the time of normal functioning of lungs, inhaled air travels down the windpipe and into the airways or bronchial tubes of the lungs, afterward inside the lungs smaller tubes called bronchioles which are rich in blood supply.

At the end of these tubes ends in to a billions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. Normally the walls of the airways alveoli are elastic and flexible in nature. So the inhalation causes each air sac to fill with air and exhalation causes each air sac to deflate.

Efficient uptake of air into the lungs provides oxygen to the blood which is then carried to all parts of the body.

During Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the airways become thick and inflamed and produces more mucus than usual. This mucus can choke the airways and makes it tough to breathe.

In Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients, the walls of the air sacs in the lungs get damaged and lose their quality of elasticity. The air sacs lose their shape and a lot of air gets trapped and there are fewer air sacs to supply oxygen to the blood because air is trapped in these air sacs.

This cause difficulty in deflating the lung in COPD. This trapped air makes it harder to get fresh air into the lungs and makes breathing more problematic. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the US.


There are some key components to Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease staging that one need to know.

The first component is inflammation of the airways and second component is bronchoconstriction.

In addition to above two, there is a hallmark of COPD which get detected on diagnostic tests that is airflow limitation essentially it’s very difficult for a person with COPD to exhale with a maximal effort.

An uncommon genetic disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is sometimes associated with COPD. 

Pulmonary function tests demonstrate that another thing is airway obstruction and this happens because of all the mucus and edema that can collect in the airways in addition in acute exacerbations.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can lead to bacterial infection and this is an important thing to mention because it will dictate how it is treated.

How COPD is diagnosed?

It is predominantly diagnose in middle-aged individuals with age more than 40 years.

The first test is a chest x-ray and this will show hyperinflation of the lung and that will be seen on the chest x-ray as a flat diaphragm.

Since the lung is essentially compressing the diaphragm there’s so much air inside now the key test to diagnosing COPD is the spirometry or PFT for pulmonary function tests. Now the pulmonary function test is going to be measuring some key components and those key components are as follows FEV1, FVC and the ratio between these two.

Forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) is the volume of air that is forcefully expired in the first second. Whereas FVC (forced vital capacity) is the total volume of air that is expired with maximum force.

Of course the ratio now in COPD the FEV1 will be decreased now how much decrease that depends on the level of severity.

Three categories of COPD are, mild COPD, moderate COPD and severe COPD. If FEV1 is greater than or equal to 80 percent of predicted value it’s known as mild. If the FEV1 is essentially between fifty and seventy nine percent it is moderate and if the FEV1 is less than fifty percent it’s considered severe.

Cure and treatment of COPD

While there is no cure for COPD but there is good treatment option to manage it.

COPD treatment involve proper medication and modifying the lifestyle such as leaving smoking, pulmonary rehabilitation, healthy eating and regular breathing exercise.

Although COPD is more common in men but more women die from this disease.

If you want to know more about Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, click here.


Disclaimer: This content including advice provides a general information only. It is in no way a substitute for trained medical practitioner opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. We does not claim obligation for this information.

3 thoughts on “Understand COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”
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