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What is COPD?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a condition in which the air passages in the lungs are constricted and unable to process the flow of air in an efficient manner. The leading cause for the development of COPD has to do with some element that triggers an unusual inflammatory response in the lungs. These elements may be due to prolonged exposure to airborne particles or gases present in locations where the individual frequents, such as a work place. COPD may also have its roots in the smoking of tobacco, which is among the most common causes for the condition.

In all cases, the element or cause of the condition triggers one or more abnormal responses from some portion of the lungs. When the triggered response includes the development of mucus or sputum that is coughed up regularly, there is a good chance the reaction is centered around the larger airways in the lungs. The condition is likely to lead to the development of bronchitis first and then progress on to COPD.

COPD may come about as an infection in the lung tissue proper that causes the tissue to begin deteriorating. When this happens, the inflammation is focused in the alveoli and will usually begin as emphysema. With continued exposure to the triggering element, COPD will develop.

A diagnosis of COPD will usually come about when the symptoms associated with bronchitis or emphysema worsen suddenly. Doctors will run a series of tests that are geared toward testing the capacity and the efficiency of the lungs. Once the severity of the condition is determined, it is possible to put together a treatment regimen that will help to slow the development of COPD and perhaps provide some amount of relief at the same time. However, it is important to remember there is no real cure for COPD, only treatments to minimize discomfort and make it possible to the sufferer to enjoy a higher quality of life.

Once a diagnosis of COPD is confirmed, one of the first steps in dealing with the condition is to eliminate any potential triggers that would cause the disease to worsen at a faster rate. For example, avoiding the use of tobacco and refraining from inhaling second hand smoke will remove one possible trigger. In like manner, it may be prudent to look for a different line of work if the work environment contains constant exposure to airborne particles such as coal dust.

Another way to deal with COPD involves maintaining a healthy weight. This means avoiding gaining too much weight or losing more pounds than considered healthy by your physician. By keeping the body’s weight within acceptable perimeters, there is less stress placed on the lungs and it is much less likely that the individual will suffer a sudden attack.

There are number of medications that may be prescribed to help alleviate the suffering caused by COPD. Physicians match the current status of the condition with a medication that is appropriate for that stage of development. Taking the medication as recommended by the doctor is an important part of living with COPD and its symptoms.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGEEK, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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