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Wednesday 17th November 2021 is World COPD Day. This year’s theme is “Healthy Lungs – Never More Important” to highlight the burden of COPD remains even during this COVID pandemic.

COPD is the 3rd leading cause of mortality worldwide and so on World COPD Day, it is an ideal time to spread awareness of COPD as well as to promote lung health to stay healthy with the disease.

Photo credit: Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common preventable and treatable lung disease characterized by narrowing of the airways leads to airflow limitation due to airway abnormalities. COPD is an umbrella term that covers:

  • Chronic bronchitis: Long-term inflammation narrows the airways. Often present with sputum or phlegm for at least three months a year during at least two successive years.
  • Emphysema: Affects the tiny air sacs at the end of the airways of the lungs, where oxygen is taken up into the bloodstream. They break down and the lungs become baggy, destruction and dilatation of airspaces causes air trapping.

Currently, over 1.3 million people are living with diagnosed COPD making it the second most common lung problem within the UK. It’s the equivalent of 2% of the country. Even more, the numbers of cases are rising.

What causes COPD?

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Exposure to noxious air-bone particles
  • Exposure to the chemical fumes

Chemicals we breath in settle on the delicate lung tissue. Anything that looks like a potential hazard to the body is seen and handled by our immune system. The issue however is that our immune system releases chemicals which damage both normal and non normal substances in the area – damaging healthy lung tissue leading to a state called inflammation.

What happens in COPD?

Inflammation of the airways in COPD causes narrowing of the air passage which leads to reduced airflow. There is destruction of lung structure, particularly the ends of our lungs termed terminal bronchioles, and surrounding tissues and vessels which reduce the lungs ability to exchange gases.

Limitation of airflow also reduces the inspiratory capacity which may develop difficulty in breathing when above normal and reduce exercise capacity in COPD patients. Impaired gas transfer causes a lack of oxygen going to our body’s cells leading to impaired function around the body.

Characteristics symptom of COPD:

  • Breathlessness
  • Sputum production
  • Cough
  • Wheeze

How to reduce the risk of the severity?

As there is still no cure for COPD, therefore, to reduce the progression of the disease along with the symptomatic treatment, one should focus on the modification of quality of life.

To promote lung health, it is important to stay active either through regular physical activity or pulmonary rehabilitation, should quit smoking, avoid secondhand smoke, and outdoor air pollution, and to maintain good nutrition.




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