Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, often referred to as C.O.P.D., is a disease of the lungs which makes it difficult and sometimes painful to breathe. COPD is the combination of Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis and ranks 4th among the leading cause of death in the United States. It is most often found in smokers, and is often confused to be just a “smoker’s cough.” Millions of people across the United States are expected to have COPD without even knowing it. This means that millions of people are walking around with what could potentially be a fatal disease, and they have no clue! Aside from that, it continues to get worse over time if not treated, and cannot be reversed. This is why it is so important to be aware of changes in your body and recognize the symptoms.
The main three symptoms to be on the look out for are a chronic cough, mucus that comes up when coughing, and shortness of breath, more noticeably during exercise. These all seem to be symptoms of your everyday smoker, but can definitely be a cause for concern, and should be checked out by your physician as soon as possible. Early detection is key in preventing further damage as well as lessening the symptoms.
Obviously, the most important way of preventing COPD is not to smoke, and to distance yourself from any and all second hand smoke. Tobacco smoke destroys the fibers in the lungs, causing bronchial tubes to inflame and the stretchy fibers to lose elasticity which makes it harder to breathe. Above all else, cigarette smoke is the leading cause of COPD. It is hard to quit smoking, but there are many organizations and medical treatments that can help you to quit, because your health is at risk. Other ways you can help to prevent COPD are to stay inside when air pollution levels are high, keep adequate ventilation in your home to avoid indoor air pollutants, and be sure to stay away from factories with high amounts of dust and chemical fumes. If you work for a company that involves a lot of contact with these fumes and dust, be sure to use proper safety equipment to lessen the inhalation of these irritants. Also, be aware of your medical history and your family history. Asthma and low levels of the protein alpha-1 antitrypsin can also cause COPD.
If you have any or all of the symptoms listed, smoke, or have either asthma or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency you should see your doctor right away and ask about COPD. It could be the difference in life or death.